17 May 2016

How young do you look?

Manfred Kayser from the University of Rotterdam Medical Center and his colleague David Gunn from the Dutch-English company Unilever have identified a gene that makes people look younger or older than their age.

The MC1R gene is well known to specialists as causing red hair color and pale complexion. As the new data showed, its variations are also associated with how a person's age is perceived by others. Certain variants of the MC1R gene make a person outwardly almost two years older than his real age.

Earlier studies have shown that a person's age in the eyes of others is determined by a combination of genetic and external factors in almost equal proportions. An interesting fact is that the age determined on the basis of the appearance of a person is a prognostic factor of the general state of human health and the risk of death. This indicates the possible existence of a relationship between the "age" of the person and the biological age, as well as the state of health.

For a more detailed study of this issue, the authors analyzed the genomes of more than 2,600 elderly Dutch people of European origin to identify DNA variants associated with differences in the visible "age" of the face and wrinkles discernible in digital photographs. The strongest associations, subsequently confirmed using data from other major European studies, were identified for variants of the MC1R gene.

According to the results obtained by the researchers, carriers of certain variants of the MC1R gene look almost 2 years older than their biological age. At the same time, this association does not depend on age, gender, skin tone or damage caused by solar ultraviolet.


The influence of variants of the MC1R gene on the appearance of a person's face is demonstrated by the example of averaged photographs of the faces of 12 women aged 47 years (right) and 12 women aged 70 years (left).
Aging leads to the appearance of wrinkles and uneven pigmentation on the face, as well as changes in facial features, such as the size of the lips and the depth of the nasolabial fold.
At the same time, some people look older, while others look younger than their chronological age. In addition to its role in the formation of skin color, MC1R is also involved in a number of biological processes, such as inflammation and repair of DNA damage.

The authors suggest that this may be the reason for the relationship between the gene variants and the young appearance.

The researchers emphasize that the MC1R gene is only one of many factors that determine a person's apparent age, and plan to conduct a more detailed study of its effect on the appearance of a person's face, as well as identify other genes that have similar effects. They believe that eventually this line of work will provide important information about human health, as well as about the biological mechanisms of the aging process.

Article by Fan Liu et al. The MC1R Gene and Youthful Looks is published in the journal Current Biology.

Evgeniya Ryabtseva
Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on the materials of Cell Press: How old do you look? Study finds an answer in our genes


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