Link Between Faster 'Biological' Aging and Risk of Developing Age-Related Diseases
Mar. 27, 2013 — An international team of scientists led by the University of Leicester has found new evidence that links faster 'biological' ageing to the risk of developing several age-related diseases -- including heart disease, multiple sclerosis and various cancers
The study involved scientists in 14 centres across 8 countries, working as part of the ENGAGE Consortium (list of research teams is give below). The research is published online today (27th March) in the journal Nature Genetics.
The project studied a feature of chromosomes called telomeres. Telomeres sit on the end of our chromosomes -- the strands of DNA stored in the nucleus of cells. The telomeres shorten each time a cell divides to make new cells, until they reach a critical short length and the cells enter an inactive state and then die. Therefore telomeres shorten as an individual gets older. But, individuals are born with different telomere lengths and the rate at which they subsequently shorten can also vary. The speed with which telomeres wear down is a measure of 'biological aging'
Professor Samani added: "These are really exciting findings. We had previous evidence that shorter telomere lengths are associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease but were not sure whether this association was causal or not. This research strongly suggests that biological ageing plays an important role in causing coronary artery disease, the commonest cause of death in the world. This provides a novel way of looking at the disease and at least partly explains why some patients develop it early and others don't develop it at all even if they carry other risk factors."
Dr Veryan Codd, Senior Research Associate at the University of Leicester who co-ordinated the study and carried out the majority of the telomere length measurements said: "The findings open of the possibility that manipulating telomere length could have health benefits. While there is a long way to go before any clinical application, there are data in experimental models where lengthening telomere length has been shown to #$%$ and in some situations reverse age-related changes in several organs."