Posted on Jan 12, 2017, 6 a.m.
Study finds that particular "biomarker signatures" in the blood can deterimine the risk of developing some age-related health conditions later in life.
A new study has found that patterns of biomarkers in people's blood can be used to predict how well they age and their future risk factors for age-related diseases. The study was done by researchers at Boston University Medical Center and published in the journal Aging Cell. Over 5000 people participated in the study which was funded by the National Institute on Aging. Researchers found that half the participants had a pattern of 19 biomarkers, and a much smaller portion of people had unusual patterns associated with an increased risk of certain medical conditions and mortality eight years after the start of the study. Some of these patterns were associated with disease-free aging, disability-free aging with cardiovascular disease, and aging with dementia.
Predictive Biomarkers Show if People are Aging Well
Using data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study, researchers derived 26 predictive biomarker signatures which showed differences in how people age. These signatures could be able to predict whether a person will age gracefully, or age with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or stroke. Researchers are saying that further research is required to leverage the information from this study to better generate signatures to identify specific mortality risks and diseases in people.
According to the lead author of the study professor Paola Sebastiani, many disease risk profiles & predictions already exist. but this study is unique in that it proved that patterns of biomarkers can show if people are aging well or tell the risk factors for any age-related diseases. Professor Thomas Perls, one of the authors of the Long Life Family Study, said that they can now detect thousands of these biomarkers from patient blood samples. The ultimate goal is to use this technology to predict patients risk of getting age-related diseases long before it becomes a medical problem.
The Future of Preventative Medication & Drug Discovery
The analytic methods learned in this study are making medical intervention more plausible. The researchers are confident they can rely on using biomarker signatures to detect the molecular patterns that are the precursors to early onset of age-related diseases. They then will be able to use future drugs to delay the diseases or prevent them altogether. Scientists say this is just the beginning in the research of using biomarker signatures for disease treatment and new drug discovery. Following in the footsteps of previous advances in genetics, this study is a big step forward in the science of predictive medicine.
The research was funded by the NIA and the Samowitz Family Foundation. BU co-authors include Fangui Sun, research assistant professor of biostatistics. Other co-authors are: Bharat Thyagarajan of the University of Minnesota Medical School; Nicole Schupf of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; Anne Newman of the University of Pittsburgh; and Monty Montano of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.