Tech

Epigenetic ‘clock’ predicts true biological age of animals


A new instrument by Belsky and his colleagues, introduced in 2020 and updated earlier this year, acts like an old tachometer. In creating The speed of aging biomarker, they quantified the rate of change of 19 organ function markers at 4 ages, synthesized them into a single index, and modeled it by methylation. “We’re really quantifying the continuum of age-related decline and system integrity,” says Belsky. He added that people who age faster by this measure die younger, adding that it predicts mortality as well as GrimAge and can predict stroke and dementia even better. than.

Question about age

In 2017, a representative from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation approached Horvath after one of his talks. They liked his work and suggested he dream big, because the fund supports high-risk endeavors. They say, find a project that no one else will fund.

It didn’t take long for Horvath to propose an aging clock applicable to all vertebrates. The proposal passed – it was odd enough – but when Horvath realized the significance of what it would involve, the plan morphed into a relatively limited watch for all mammals. .

As of January 2021, Horvath has methylation data from 128 species of mammals, and he post his watch on the preprint server biorxiv.org. “Same math formula, same cells for a mouse or a mouse or a dog or a pig. We were able to measure aging in all of these species,” Horvath said. However, he scoured the world to find out more.

At the end of last summer, Horvath contacted Darren Pietersen, a pangolin expert at Tikki Hywood Foundation in Harare, Zimbabwe, providing him with supplies to collect data from pangolins and several other species. No one knows for sure how long pangolins live. Some official accounts say 15 to 20 years, but Pietersen suggests that at least some types live longer. “One animal we recently raised is about 34 years old (albeit with a sizable margin of error).

From the tissue data provided, Horvath built a pangolin watch, another survival timer to add to his collection. “You want a pig watch, I have a pig watch. I have a watch for kangaroos and for elephants,” Horvath said. Species-specific clocks are a boon for scientists in the field. For example, elephant researchers want elephant watches so they can determine the age structure of wild populations to aid conservation efforts.

But a watch that combines them all could help answer a more fundamental question: What is aging? One view is that your body ages like your shoes, gradually fading and damaged by wear and tear. But successful predictions from mammalian clocks suggest that something also keeps cells dormant on a certain schedule, perhaps because developmental genes don’t turn off when the work is done. their job is done. “This shows a decisive factor in the aging process,” says Raj, one of more than 100 watchmakers.

Data from the methylation meter suggests that aging begins very early, long before the body breaks down. In one Year 2021 paper, Gladyshev and his colleagues describe a methylation clock that dates the stages of mammalian development. They found that during early embryogenesis in mice, the rejuvenation of dial types reverts to embryonic age to zero. Subsequent biological aging is rapid, although Human children are thought to be growing stronger rather than weaker during this time, and human mortality decrease until about 9 years old. “That was very poignant to me because it questions this aging as a process that is inseparable from development,” says Raj.



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