In a new study recently published in the journal Nature Communications, an international research team reported new insights into the molecular changes associated with aging, which reinforced the involvement of mitochondria in the aging process. The study is entitled “The transcriptional landscape of age in human peripheral blood.”
Aging is known to be linked to a natural increase in disease incidence such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, three of the leading causes of death worldwide. However, the aging-associated molecular mechanisms that lead to this increased susceptibility to diseases are poorly elucidated.
Now, through a whole-blood gene expression meta-analysis on 14,983 individuals of European ancestry, the largest study of its kind, researchers identified 1,497 genes differentially expressed according to age. Of these genes, 1,450 were newly identified, and many of them were found to work together in pathways and molecular mechanisms associated with the mitochondrial function (namely energy production for the cells), and also metabolic processes, and the flexibility and stability of the cells. The team also found that many of the genes identified had an association with factors like diet, exercise, and smoking.
“This study has discovered many genes that change in their patterns of expression with age. This study has not only given insights into ageing mechanisms — such as mitochondrial function — but these techniques have potential use in prediction and treatment,” said Dr. Luke Pilling, Associate Research Fellow in Genomic Epidemiology at the University of Exeter and co-author of the study, in a press release.
Furthermore, the team developed a new method to predict a person’s biological age, and found that an estimated biological age greater than the actual chronological age of an individual was linked to biological features associated with aging, namely higher cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body mass index (BMI).
The research team concluded that the newly identified genes in the study can provide further insight into understanding and determining the molecular changes that occur in the body during the aging process, including at the level of metabolism and mitochondrial function.
“Large, observational, and collaborative projects such as these provide a great platform to focus ageing research in the future, with the hope that predictive tests can be developed, and treatment strategies for age-related conditions improved,” concluded Dr. Pilling.