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Unique DNA Clock Can Help Determine Your Lifespan

Feb 02, 2015 08:10 PM EST
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A unique DNA clock identified by researchers can help determine your lifespan, a new study says.

Four independent studies tracked the lives of almost 5,000 older people for up to 14 years. Each person's biological age was measured from a blood sample at the beginning of the study, and the research team followed up on participants throughout the study.

Researchers found that they could better predict an individual's biological age by looking at chemical changes to DNA that took place over a lifetime. Specifically, they focused on a chemical modification to DNA, known as methylation, which plays an important role in biological processes and can influence how genes are turned off and on. Methylation changes can also affect many genes and occur throughout a person's life.

Then after comparing individuals' actual ages with their predicted biological clock age, scientists found a vital link.

That is, people whose biological age was greater than their actual age were more likely to die sooner than those whose biological and actual ages were the same. Even after accounting for other factors such as smoking, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the University of Edinburgh researchers still found an association between a faster-running biological clock and shorter lifespan.

"This new research increases our understanding of longevity and healthy aging," lead researcher Professor Ian Deary at the University of Edinburgh said in a statement. "It is exciting as it has identified a novel indicator of aging, which improves the prediction of lifespan over and above the contribution of factors such as smoking, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease."

The study's results were published in the journal Genome Biology.

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