Can Blood Tests Assess Aging?

A recent study published by Oh, H.SH., Rutledge, J., Nachun, D. et al. in Nature has revealed that the aging of individual organs can be assessed using protein levels in blood plasma. This method, known as plasma proteomics, has been shown to be able to predict mortality and disease risk, and to identify individuals with accelerated aging of specific organs. This finding has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of aging and to develop new therapies for age-related diseases.

The study involved analysing blood plasma samples from over 5,000 individuals from five different cohorts. The researchers developed machine learning models to identify patterns of protein levels that were associated with aging in 11 different organs. These models were then able to predict mortality risk and the risk of developing specific diseases, such as heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study also found that individuals with accelerated aging of specific organs were more likely to develop age-related diseases. For example, individuals with accelerated heart aging were 250% more likely to develop heart failure, and individuals with accelerated brain and vascular aging were as likely as individuals with high levels of pTau-181 (a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease) to develop the disease.

These findings have important implications for the development of new therapies for age-related diseases. By measuring the aging of individual organs, doctors may be able to identify individuals at high risk of developing these diseases and to intervene early to prevent them.

Overall, the study provides strong evidence that plasma proteomics is a powerful tool for assessing the aging of individual organs and for predicting mortality and disease risk. This method has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of aging and to develop new therapies for age-related diseases.

Can Aging Be Reversed?

A paper published a few days ago by Yang et al. suggests that aging can be reversed! Here is a summary of the research paper:

  • Background: Cellular aging is a complex process that is characterized by a number of changes, including changes in gene expression, DNA methylation, and telomere length. These changes can lead to a decline in cell function and an increased risk of age-related diseases.
  • Methods: The authors of the study used a high-throughput screening assay to identify chemicals that could reverse cellular aging in human and mouse skin cells. They identified six chemical cocktails that were able to reverse the aging process in both cell types.
  • Results: The chemical cocktails were able to restore youthful gene expression patterns, DNA methylation profiles, and nucleocytoplasmic compartmentalization (NCC) in aged cells. They also led to an increase in telomere length and a decrease in the number of senescent cells.
  • Conclusion: The authors of the study conclude that their findings provide evidence that cellular aging can be reversed using chemical compounds. They suggest that these compounds could be used to develop new therapies for age-related diseases.

The study is a significant advance in the field of aging research. It provides new insights into the mechanisms of cellular aging and suggests that it may be possible to reverse the aging process using chemical compounds. This could have major implications for the development of new therapies for age-related diseases.

Here are some of the limitations of the study:

  • The study was conducted in cell culture, so it is not yet clear whether the findings will translate to humans.
  • The study only looked at a limited number of chemicals, so it is possible that there are other compounds that could also reverse cellular aging.
  • The study did not look at the long-term effects of the chemical cocktails, so it is not yet clear whether they are safe for use in humans.

Despite these limitations, the study is a promising step forward in the field of aging research. It provides new hope for the development of new therapies for age-related diseases.

Loving-Kindness Meditation Slows Aging

A recent study by Le Nguyen et al. published in Psychoneuroendocrinology has looked at the effect of loving-kindness meditation on telomore length. Loving-Kindness is a Buddhist meditation that focuses on sending good wishes and kindness to ourselves and others by silently repeating a series of mantras. Telomeres sit at the end of chromosomes and protect the chromosomes from deterioration. Our telomeres gradually shorten over time and this is believed to contribute to aging.

The researchers randomised 142 middle-aged adults into 3 groups: a waiting list control group, a mindfulness meditation group and a loving-kindness meditation group. Telomere length was measured 2 weeks prior to the start and 3 weeks after the end of the 6-week meditation workshop. The results showed that there was significantly less telomere attrition in the loving-kindness meditation group than the control group. The mindfulness meditation group had results that were in between the other 2 groups without being statistically significantly different from either.

We can infer that loving-kindness meditation can slow aging by decreasing the rate at which our telomeres shorten.

Exercise Improves Brain Function

Researchers Art Kramer and Laura Chaddock, from the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, have found that children that are aerobically fitter perform better at memory tests than their less fit peers. The improvement in brain function is linked to an increased hippocampal volume. The hippocampus is a structure deep within the brain that is involved with learning and memory. This would suggest that exercise plays a crucial role in the brain development of children.

As we age, there is a natural decline in our mental function. However, studies have shown that this process can be slowed or even reversed! Dr Kirk Erickson conducted a 9 year follow-up study that demonstrated that increased exercise, in the form of walking, was associated with greater grey matter volume and less cognitive impairment. This can have dramatic effects on our ability to lead normal independent lives well into our old age.

The reason for the beneficial influence of exercise on brain growth and function may be due to a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). It supports the survival of existing nerve cells and promotes the growth of new ones and increases the levels of circulating BDNF.

These findings support the promotion of life-long exercise. I guess this sheds new light on the old Roman adage: “a healthy mind in a healthy body”!