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03-13-2024

True biological age is hidden in several newly-identified blood markers

Researchers have identified blood-based markers that provide insight into the rate at which individuals age, offering a novel approach to predict biological age.

This discovery from the University of Pittsburgh enhances our understanding of the aging process and introduces potential avenues for interventions aimed at extending the period of life spent in good health.

Tale of two ages: Biological vs. chronological

At the heart of this research is the notion that age encompasses more than the years since birth. Aditi Gurkar, Ph.D., assistant professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and a senior author of the study, illustrates this concept with a vivid comparison.

“Consider two individuals, both aged 65. One is active, biking to work and enjoying skiing, while the other struggles with climbing a single flight of stairs. They share the same chronological age but differ significantly in their biological ages.” Gurkar’s research seeks to unravel the mystery behind these divergent aging pathways.

Blood tells the story: Metabolomics and the aging process

The study involved comparing two groups of older adults: those who age healthily and those who age rapidly. The distinction was made based on the participants’ ability to complete walking challenges, a reliable measure of overall health.

Remarkably, the rapid agers, despite being younger, exhibited signs of accelerated biological aging compared to their healthier counterparts.

The research team utilized metabolomics to analyze the participants’ blood samples, focusing on metabolites — dynamic molecules that reflect our current health state and can be influenced by lifestyle choices, diet, and environment.

This approach revealed distinct differences in the metabolomes of healthy and rapid agers, pointing to specific metabolites associated with biological aging.

HAM index: A new yardstick for biological age

Gurkar and her team developed the Healthy Aging Metabolic (HAM) Index from 25 identified metabolites. This index outperformed traditional aging metrics in distinguishing between the two groups of agers.

Validation in a separate cohort from Wisconsin confirmed the HAM Index’s efficacy, demonstrating its potential as a universal biomarker for biological aging.

Further analysis using artificial intelligence identified key metabolites likely influencing aging trajectories. Future research will explore these metabolites and the pathways producing them, seeking interventions to slow the aging process.

Gurkar is also looking into assessing the metabolome in younger individuals to potentially predict aging-related diseases early on.

Gurkar envisions a future where medicine proactively addresses aging, “Imagine a blood test that informs a 35-year-old they have the biological age of someone a decade older, prompting early lifestyle adjustments to reverse this trend.

The future of medicine lies in early detection and personalized interventions to delay disease and enhance the quality of life.”

Biological age redefined: New path to healthy living

In summary, this pioneering research presents new revelations in the science of aging, offering a promising future where personalized health interventions extend our years of vitality.

By uncovering blood-based markers that reveal the secrets behind the varying rates at which we age, this study challenges our understanding of biological age and sets a foundation for predictive health measures.

With the development of the Healthy Aging Metabolic (HAM) Index and the potential for a predictive blood test, Aditi Gurkar and her team pave the way for a proactive approach in medicine.

This approach focuses on early detection and tailored lifestyle adjustments, promising a shift towards a future where aging is not merely a number but a modifiable aspect of our health journey.

The full study was published in the journal Aging Cell.

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