29 July 2022

Secrets of longevity

How epigenetics affects the chances of living to 90 years

Alice Lukyanova, "Profile"

Scientists from the University of California at San Diego have found that accelerated biological aging, in particular epigenetic aging, is associated with lower chances of living to 90 years. The results of scientific work presented in the journal JAMA Network Open (Jain et al, Analysis of Epigenetic Age Acceleration and Healthy Longevity Among Older US Women) indicate that epigenetic status can serve as a biomarker of healthy longevity, as well as the rate of aging processes in the body.

Experts analyzed data on the epigenetic status of 1813 elderly women aged 70-72 years who participated in the long-term national Women's Health Initiative study. Among this cohort, 464 women lived to the age of 90, while they managed to maintain physical mobility and cognitive functions; 420 patients lived to the same age, but faced problems with mobility and mental activity, and 929 died before they reached the age of 90.

Epigenetic factors affect the activity of certain genes without changing the DNA itself. One of the varieties of such an effect is methylation – we are talking about the addition of methyl groups to cytosine, which is part of the cytosine-guanine dinucleotide (CpG-dinucleotide). Scientists characterized the level of methylation of the entire genome from blood samples of each of the participants.

It is noted that the accumulation of methyl groups with age indicates the rate of aging, it can be determined by a number of known epigenetic clocks. The first epigenetic clock was developed by geneticist Steve Horvath from the University of California, Los Angeles - they take into account the methylation level of 353 CpG dinucleotides. Other epigenetic clocks are the Hannum clock, which consists of 71 methylation markers, as well as PhenoAge (513 markers) and GrimAge (1030 markers). In total, all these clocks predict chronological age, physical well-being, as well as cognitive decline, telomere length, risk of cancer, age-related diseases and neurodegenerative disorders, and the likelihood of premature death.

The results of the analysis showed that women who lived to the age of 90 without problems with physical and mental condition were generally healthier than the other groups (30.8% vs. 24 and 21.7%, respectively) and less likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, frequent falls, hip fracture, emphysema, arthritis, depression, urinary incontinence, as well as visual or auditory sensory disorders.

The level of methylation correlated with age, but if there was an acceleration of the epigenetic clock by at least one standard deviation (corresponding to an additional five to eight years of epigenetic age), then the chances of living to 90 years of age while maintaining health fell by 20-40%. The chances of living to the age of 90 with chronic diseases fell less - by 4-25%.

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