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Biologists create a new method for accurately determining the biological age

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

For the first time, German biologists managed to create a method for accurately determining the biological age by gene expression – a transcriptome. Scientists have named the new method BiT – the binarized transcriptomic aging clock.

Biological aging is a major factor in many diseases, a decrease in organ function and a general progressive loss of the physiological integrity of body systems.

All people age in different ways and the biological age can sometimes differ significantly from the chronological one. Therefore, scientists are constantly looking for biomarkers of aging, which can be used to estimate the biological age of the body. This is important for identifying genetic and external factors that influence the aging process and developing potential methods of rejuvenating and treating age-related diseases.

Until now, methods for determining biological age were based mainly on the analysis of DNA, in the structure of which the degree of methylation changes with age – the attachment of a methyl group to certain genes. Scientists track these so-called epigenetic changes in the genome, or epigenetic DNA tags, and estimate the level of aging of the body based on their set.

Researchers at the University of Cologne bioinformatics David Meyer and geneticist Björn Schumacher used transcriptomes, a set of genes that are read from DNA to make proteins, to estimate biological age. Prior to this, it was not possible to develop an accurate aging clock based on gene activity due to the complexity of the method and the ambiguity of the results.

As a model organism for their experiments, the authors used the nematode roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, whose genes’ lifespan is precisely known. By manipulating external influences, such as ultraviolet radiation or nutrition, scientists have observed how the expression of about 1000 genes and the total life span of the organism change.

“Surprisingly, this simple procedure made it possible to very accurately predict biological age, close to the theoretical limit,” the words of Professor Björn Schumacher, director of the Institute for Genome Stability in Aging and Disease and the Center for Molecular Medicine in Cologne, are quoted in a press release. This clock of aging also works well in older age, which used to be difficult to measure because the fluctuations in gene activity in old age are especially high.”

The researchers believe that the BiT method can also be used to quickly and very accurately estimate a person’s biological age.

“Since the BiT method is based solely on gene activity, it can be applied to any organism. Measuring biological age is important for determining the influence of the environment, diet or treatment on aging and the development of age-related diseases. Thus, this watch can be widely used in gerontological research,” says the scientist.

The authors managed to achieve high accuracy of the transcriptome clock of aging by using a mathematical technique that eliminates the differences in the activity of genes, which they divided into two groups – “on” and “off”, and analyzed the variability in each group separately.

The results of the study are published in the journal Aging Cell.

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