Premature boys age faster as men, study

They do not do as well as their normal-weight counterparts or preemie girls.


A new study by the scientists from McMaster University, which gathered information from the world’s oldest longitudinal study of extremely low birth weight (ELBW) babies, has found that premie boys who weigh less than a kilogram age faster than men.

They tend to be 4.6 years older than boys with normal birth weight born at the same time. A similar difference was not observed between birth weight groups in girls.

Scientists noted, “The rate of aging may be influenced by boys’ handling of physiological stress before birth, and in the hospital neonatal intensive care unit after they are born.”

Scientists used an epigenetic clock to observe the genes of 45 of those who were ELBW babies along with 47 who were normal birth weight when they were age 30 to 35 to compare their biological age, controlling for chronic health problems and sensory impairments.

Ryan Van Lieshout, the first author of the study, said, “Although it is unclear why accelerated biological aging is seen in the ELBW men, this suggests that prenatal exposures play an important role in aging. Previous research has shown that the ELBW boys are more susceptible to prenatal stresses than ELBW girls.”

“This certainly highlights the need to monitor the health of preterm survivors across their lifespan, and more research needs to be done. This also emphasizes the need to forewarn the ELBW men and promote healthy aging so they may proactively mitigate these risks.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Ryan J. Van Lieshout et al. Extremely Low Birth Weight and Accelerated Biological Aging. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2020-001230
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