Latest and most precise test for biological age

Epigenetic clocks favor kidney transplants over dialysis for renal aging.


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Researchers from Karolinska Institutet and the University of Glasgow have created a reliable test to measure how fast a person is aging. This test called an epigenetic clock, examines DNA to determine if the body is aging faster or slower than expected based on a person’s age. It’s a breakthrough because it works well in healthy and unhealthy tissues, making it the first to be proven effective in natural clinical settings. This discovery came about while studying how chronic kidney disease affects aging.

This research was jointly conducted by the University of Glasgow and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. The results of their work have been published in the Journal of Internal Medicine as part of a broader study examining how chronic kidney disease and its treatments influence the aging process.

Professor Peter Stenvinkel at the Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology, one of the lead authors of the study, said, “This study is the first time in a clinical setting that we can accurately report on the extent of biological as opposed to chronological aging in chronic kidney disease patients. Using the new Glasgow-Karolinska Clock, our findings show that not only are these patients aging faster than people in the general population, but their accelerated aging also only slows down once they have had a transplant. Treatment with dialysis does not appear to impact this process.”

The research team in Sweden examined over 400 patients with chronic kidney disease, comparing them to about 100 similar individuals without the condition. They aimed to grasp how illnesses and treatments like dialysis and kidney transplants affect aging.

They used various tests, including blood markers, skin autofluorescence, and epigenetic clocks, to achieve this. These “clocks” helped them measure how the biological age of 47 patients changed one year after either getting a kidney transplant or starting dialysis. They also compared how the healthy tissue of 48 people without kidney disease aged.

The study found that patients with chronic kidney disease age faster than the average person, and this accelerated aging continues even after dialysis treatment.

However, kidney transplants slow down this accelerated aging. Existing epigenetic clocks measuring biological age were not accurate when applied to healthy tissues over time. To address this, the research team created a more reliable epigenetic clock called the Glasgow-Karolinska Clock, which works well for healthy and unhealthy tissues.

It provided accurate results for patients with chronic kidney disease and appeared to work well for assessing healthy tissue. This study marks the first real-world test of epigenetic clocks in a typical aging scenario against clinical measures.

As our bodies age, several factors cause epigenetic changes and the removal of chemical markers (DNA methylation) from our DNA. This process is frequently linked to various age-related diseases, including chronic kidney disease, cancer, and heart disease. Epigenetic clocks are considered a highly reliable method for accurately determining a person’s age beyond their biological age. They work by measuring the methylation marks on DNA, serving as a gold standard in age measurement.

Helen Erlandsson, one of the first authors, senior lecturer, and Ph.D. at the same institution at Karolinska Institutet, said, “This is also the first clinical test of epigenetic clocks, and the discovery that most are inaccurate when compared with medical evidence has led us to develop a new more accurate test that can accurately measure methylation tags on DNA of both healthy and unhealthy tissue. We have proven it is accurate to the high standards of a clinical setting.”

DNA methylation tags are influenced by our diet and gut microbiome. This new clock can assess lifestyle changes, including dietary interventions, which could benefit the public and address health disparities. Peter Stenvinkel suggests this tool could be valuable for studying treatment approaches in patients with end-stage kidney disease, a group prone to premature aging. The information is sourced from a University of Glasgow press release.

Journal reference:

  1. Ognian Neytchev, Helen Erlandsson, et al., Epigenetic clocks indicate that kidney transplantation and not dialysis mitigate the effects of renal ageing. Journal of Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.1111/joim.13724.