Posted on Nov 13, 2013, 6 a.m.
Newly discovered mechanism may help scientists to understand the aging process and lead to novel anti-aging therapies.
A number of scientific efforts aimed at developing therapeutics to counteract the aging process and thereby treat a diversity of aging-related diseases and disorders are underway. Steve Horvath, from the University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA; California, USA) analyzed the DNA of nearly 8,000 samples of 51 different healthy and cancerous cells and tissues. Specifically, he looked at how methylation, a natural process that chemically modifies DNA, varied with age. The researcher found that the methylation of 353 DNA markers varied consistently with age and could be used as a biological clock. The clock ticked fastest in the years up to around age 20, then slowed down to a steadier rate. Whether the DNA changes cause ageing or are caused by ageing is an unknown that scientists are now keen to work out. Submitting that: "DNA methylation age measures the cumulative effect of an epigenetic maintenance system," the investigation concludes that: "This novel epigenetic clock can be used to address a host of questions in developmental biology, cancer and aging research."
Horvath S. "DNA methylation age of human tissues and cell types." Genome Biol. 2013 Oct 21;14(10):R115.