Scientists say DNA clues could predict when people will die

January 31, 2015 1:32 pm
A biological clock in people’s DNA could tell could tell scientists how long they will live.
Researchers
have found that chemical changes in DNA can help us understand people’s
“biological age” – a measure of how old their body is that seems to be
able to predict when people are going to die.

Scientists found
that people whose biological age showed them as older than their real
age were more likely to die sooner. That still held true, even
accounting for other factors like smoking and heart disease.

Scientists measured people’s biological age by looking at a chemical modification that happens to DNA. Photo / Thinkstock
Four
independent studies tracked 5,000 people for up to 14 years.
Researchers measured each of their biological ages, and then compared it
over time.
Scientists found that the link between biological age and the chance of death held up.

The study’s principal investigator, Professor Ian Deary, from
the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive
Epidemiology, said: “This new research increases our understanding of
longevity and healthy ageing.
“It is exciting as it has
identified a novel indicator of ageing, which improves the prediction of
lifespan over and above the contribution of factors such as smoking,
diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Scientists measured
people’s biological age by looking at a chemical modification that
happens to DNA, known as methylation. It plays an important role in
biological processes, and can turn genes on and off.
Researchers have published their results in the journal Genome Biology.
It
was conducted by researchers from the University of Edinburgh,
University of Queensland, Harvard University, University of California,
Los Angeles (UCLA), Boston University, the Johns Hopkins University
Lieber Institute for Brain Development and the US National Heart, Lung
and Blood Institute.

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