Tick tock…we all know that life is a battle against the inevitability of time. But wouldn’t it be great if you could get a real idea of how your cells are aging? It may just help make 20 the new 30, that is when it comes to your chance of death. And that’s the ambitious goal of Steve Horvath and his epigenetic clock. Teaming up with an international crew based out of the University of Edinburgh, the epigenetic clock has just got an upgrade.
By examining the difference in DNA methylation age and chronological age the team came up with a new metric: ∆age. This allowed them to have a good idea of the variation in the human population underlying senescence and to compare these differences in order to understand just how informative blood CpGs could be in predicting our inevitable endpoint.
Here’s what they found:
- When compared to the population based on age and sex alone, if your ∆age is 5 years higher then there is a 21% higher mortality risk that comes along with.
- Accommodating for a number of other lifestyle factors including “childhood IQ, education, social class, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and APOE e4 status” calibrates it a bit more finely, but that risk is still a 16% increase in mortality for a 5-year higher ∆age.
- Using a smaller cohort and pedigree analysis the heritability of ∆age was found to be 0.43 and that’s pretty heritable for a ‘non-genetic’ factor.
Senior author Ian Deary concludes, “This new research increases our understanding of longevity and healthy aging. It is exciting as it has identified a novel indicator of aging, which improves the prediction of lifespan over and above the contribution of factors such as smoking, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”
Go find out your clock’s position in Genome Biology, February 2015