Want to know how long you will live? Scientists have developed a blood test that has the potential to predict biological age of people and offer a clue to their longevity or how healthy they will.
This could pave the way for new treatments and possible therapies for common conditions such as bone problems and heart disease related to old age.
According to experts, key metabolites in the blood that are linked to aging are “fingerprints” that could provide valuable clues to a person’s long-term health.
Professor Tim Spector, head of the Department of Twin Research at King’s College stated, “Scientists have known for a long time that a person’s weight at the time of birth is an important determinant of health in middle and old age, and that people with low birth weight are more susceptible to age related diseases.
“So far the molecular mechanisms that link low birth weight to health or disease in old age had remained elusive, but this discovery has revealed one of the molecular pathways involved.”
Metabolic profiling of 6000 identical twins
Experts used a process called metabolomic profiling to analyze blood samples donated by 6000 identical twins. The focus was to identify the novel metabolite that has a link to birth weight and rate of aging.
Given that identical twins share the same genes, experts theorize that metabolite activity is changed by nutrition or different conditions in the womb.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Ana Valdes from King’s College London says, “Human ageing is a process influenced by genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors, but genes only explain a part of the story.
“Molecular changes that influence how we age over time are triggered by epigenetic changes. This study has for the first time used analysis of blood and epigenetic changes to identify a novel metabolite that has a link to birth weight and rate of aging.”
22 metabolites identified
The analysis revealed 22 metabolites directly linked to chronological age, with higher concentrations in older than in younger people.
One of the metabolites identified (C-glyTrp) is tied age-related traits such as lung function, bone mineral density, cholesterol and blood pressure, but its role in aging is absolutely new. It was noted that C-glyTrp was also linked with lower weight at birth.
Ana Valdes explained, “This unique metabolite, which is related to age and age-related diseases, was different in genetically identical twins that had very different weight at birth. This shows us that birth weight affects a molecular mechanism that alters this metabolite. This may help us understand how lower nutrition in the womb alters molecular pathways that result in faster aging and a higher risk of age-related diseases 50 years later.”
The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.