A new test determining our biological age could be key in the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
James Timmons, leader of the study at King’s College, London, says “as a profiling technique, [the test] is turning out to be really powerful”.
The UK-based study was undertaken with a group of healthy 65-year-olds and young people who each spent less than 2.5 hours a week doing exercise.
By comparing participants’ biopsies and genetic activity, researchers found a reliable distinction between the genetic ‘signatures’ of 150 genes, demonstrating that one’s biological age is a better measure of health than chronological age.
Though it couldn’t be confirmed whether the test could predict if an individual would develop dementia or not, the findings show an opportunity to better under the disease for earlier intervention.
The results, published in Genome Biology, show that those with early signs of dementia presented remarkably different results to healthy people of the same age, indicating the test can give an insight into the genetic differences of those with dementia and those without.
Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, says this is a step in the right direction.
“With further development, this research could help in our quest to find new treatments for the condition, by identifying people who are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease so they can participate in clinical trials,” he said.
Those looking for an organ donor may also benefit from the test. With the study showing the genetic signature of other bodily tissue, doctors will be able to assess the biological age of organs, allowing those with healthy organs to donate, regardless of their age.
“At the moment we have a cut-off age for donors of about 70 years old, but with this, we can see whether an organ has a good biological age, and make a decision on whether to implant it into a patient or not.”
Dan Belsky of North Carolina’s Duke University School of Medicine says the findings demonstrate that biological changes that come with age are the actual cause of disease.
“If we can eventually design interventions to slow or reverse these changes, those interventions will work to prevent many different diseases,” he said.
Source: The Guardian