Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Next Gen Sequencing
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Methylome Modifications Offer New Measure of our “Biological” Age

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Women live longer than men. Individuals can appear or feel years younger – or older – than their chronological age. Diseases can affect our aging process. When it comes to biology, our clocks clearly tick differently.

In a new study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues elsewhere, describe markers and a model that quantify how aging occurs at the level of genes and molecules, providing not just a more precise way to determine how old someone is, but also perhaps anticipate or treat ailments and diseases that come with the passage of time.

The findings are published in the November 21 online issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

“It’s well known that people age at different rates,” said Kang Zhang, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and human genetics at the Shiley Eye Center and director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine, both at UC San Diego. “Some people in their 70s look like they’re in their 50s, while others in their 50s look like they’re in their 70s.”

However, identifying markers and precisely quantifying the actual rate of aging in individuals has been challenging. For example, researchers have looked at telomeres – repeating nucleotide sequences that cap the ends of chromosomes and which shorten with age – but have found that other factors like stress can affect them as well.

In the new Molecular Cell paper, Zhang and colleagues focus on DNA methylation, a fundamental, life-long process in which a methyl group is added or removed from the cytosine molecule in DNA to promote or suppress gene activity and expression. The researchers measured more than 485,000 genome-wide methylation markers in blood samples of 656 persons ranging in age from 19 to 101.

“It’s a very robust way of predicting aging,” said Zhang, one that was subsequently validated on a second sampling of several hundred blood samples from another cohort of human individuals.

The scientists found that an individual’s “methylome” – the entire set of human methylation markers and changes across a whole genome – predictably varies over time, providing a way to determine a person’s actual biological age from just a blood sample.

“It’s the majority of the methylome that accurately predicts age, not just a few key genes,” said co-senior author Trey Ideker, PhD, a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Medical Genetics in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and professor of bioengineering in the Jacobs School of Engineering. “The methylation state decays over time along the entire genome. You look in the body, into the cells, of young people and methylation occurs very distinctly in some spots and not in others. It’s very structured. Over time, though, methylation sites get fuzzier; the boundaries blur.”

They do not, however, blur at the same rate in everybody. At the molecular level of the methylome, the researchers said it was clear that individual bodies age at varying rates, and even within the same body, different organs age differently. Moreover, cancer cells age differently than their surrounding normal cells.  The findings, according to the study authors, have broad practical implications. Most immediately, they could be used in forensics to determine a person’s age based only upon a blood or tissue sample.

More profoundly, said Zhang, the methylome provides a measure of biological age – how quickly or slowly a person is experiencing the passage of time. That information has potentially huge medical import. “For example, you could serially profile patients to compare therapies, to see if a treatment is making people healthier and ‘younger.’ You could screen compounds to see if they retard the aging process at the tissue or cellular level.”

Ideker said assessing an individual’s methylome state could improve preventive medicine by identifying lifestyle changes that might slow molecular aging. He noted, however, that much more research remains to be done.

“The next step is to look to see whether methylation can predict specific health factors, and whether this kind of molecular diagnosis is better than existing clinical or physical markers. We think it’s very promising,” Ideker said.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Industry-Sponsored Academic Inventions Spur Increased Innovation
Analysis questions assumption that corporate support skews science toward inventions that are less useful than those funded by the government or non-profit organizations.
Monday, March 24, 2014
International Fruit Pest Targeted by Genomic Research
The spotted wing drosophila is itself being targeted, thanks to groundbreaking genome sequencing.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Scientists Pinpoint Cell Type and Brain Region Affected by Gene Mutations in Autism
UCSF-led study zeroes in on when and where disrupted genes exert effects.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
DNA Found Outside Genes Plays Largely Unknown, Potentially Vital Roles
UCSF study identifies thousands of previously unknown RNA molecules.
Monday, July 01, 2013
Genetic Study Shows Europeans are One Big Family
Europeans are basically one big family, closely related to one another for the past thousand years, according to a new study of the DNA of people from across the continent.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Tick-Borne Lone Star Virus Identified through New Super-Fast Gene Sequencing
The tick-borne Lone Star virus has been conclusively identified as part of a family of other tick-borne viruses called bunyaviruses, which often cause fever, respiratory problems and bleeding.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
New Center for Data Storage Research Established
Researchers in the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz are partnering with data storage industry to establish the Center for Research in Storage Systems (CRSS).
Thursday, March 28, 2013
New Network Being Built to Support Transfer of Big Data
The University of California, San Diego, is taking another leap forward in the name of enabling data-intensive science.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
National Study to Examine Risks, Benefits in Emergent Whole Genome Sequencing
UCSF School of Pharmacy faculty member to lead four-year, $2.4 million project.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
'Defective' Virus Plays Major Role in Spread of Disease
Defective viruses now appear able to play an important role in the spread of disease, new research by UCLA life scientists indicates.
Friday, March 01, 2013
Gladstone Scientists Map Genomic Blueprint of the Heart
Findings could help scientists combat the underlying causes of congenital heart disease.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Beyond Base-pairs: Mapping the Functional Genome
Unprecedented study maps significant portion of the functional sequences of the mouse genome.
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Gene Mutations Likely Cause of Massive Brain Asymmetry
It is hoped that these genetic changes can be inhibited by designer drugs, thus avoiding drastic surgery.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Scientific News
DNA Damage Seen in Patients Undergoing CT Scanning
Along with the burgeoning use of advanced medical imaging tests over the past decade have come rising public health concerns about possible links between low-dose radiation and cancer.
Web App Helps Researchers Explore Cancer Genetics
Brown University computer scientists have developed a new interactive tool to help researchers and clinicians explore the genetic underpinnings of cancer.
New Research Advances Genetic Studies in Wildlife Conservation
‘Next-gen’ DNA sequencing of non-invasively collected hair expands field of conservation genetics.
Gene Testing Now Allows Precision Medicine for Thoracic Aneurysms
Researchers at the Aortic Institute at Yale have tested the genomes of more than 100 patients with thoracic aortic aneurysms, a potentially lethal condition, and provided genetically personalized care.
OGT’s Popular ESHG Workshop Free to View Online
Learn about the next generation of microarrays in one of the best attended workshops of the conference.
Discordant NIPT Test Results May Reflect Presence of Maternal Cancer
Results published in Journal of the American Medical Association.
Sperm RNA Test May Improve Evaluation of Male Infertility
To help resolve uncertainty—and guide prospective parents to the right fertility treatments—scientists propose the use of a new kind of fertility test. It involves examining sperm RNA by means of next-generation sequencing.
How the Mammoth Got its Wool
Evolutionary change in a gene reconstructed in the lab from the woolly mammoth was part of a suite of adaptations that allowed the mammoth to survive in harsh arctic environments, according to new research.
NuGEN Scientists Screen 400+ Genes for Fusion Events in Single Assay
Breakthrough proves efficacy of new sample preparation method that could accelerate cancer research and development of treatments and diagnostic tests.
More Accurate and Comprehensive Whole Genome Assembly
Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have developed a new approach to build nearly complete genomes by combining high-throughput DNA sequencing with genome mapping.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!