Brain aging and dementia remain a mystery. This epigenetic model may help unravel it

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Credit: Freepik
Credit: Freepik

People age at different rates, with some individuals developing both characteristics and diseases related to aging earlier in life than others. Learning more about this ‘biological age’ could help us understand more about how we can prevent age-related diseases, such as dementia.

“Because of substantial inter-individual variation in age-associated phenotypes, there is considerable interest in identifying robust biomarkers of ‘biological’ age, a quantitative phenotype that is thought to better capture an individual’s risk of age-related outcomes than actual chronological age,” the authors [of an epigenetic brain model study] wrote. Understanding the biological mechanisms involved in aging processes will be critical for scientists to work towards preventing, slowing or even reversing age-associated phenotypes.

Related article:  Can we 'program' people through epigenetics to enjoy exercise?

Epigenetic mechanisms control the extent to which genes are switched on and off across the different cell-types and tissues that make up a human body. Unlike our genetic code, these epigenetic marks change over time, and these changes can be used to accurately predict biological age from a DNA sample.

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The research team is now working on using the model on brain samples of people who had Alzheimer’s disease. They hypothesize that they will find evidence for elevated biological aging in these samples.

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