A group of scientists has identified a biological clock that could help predict how long we live, according to a study.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with researchers in Australia and the US studied chemical changes to DNA to establish an individual’s biological age which they compared with their actual age.
The results showed that people with biological age greater than their true age were more likely to die sooner than those whose biological and actual ages were the same.
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 outset and participants were followed up throughout the study.
Researchers found that the link between having a faster-running biological clock and early death held true — even after considering factors like smoking, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“This new research increases our understanding of longevity and healthy ageing,” said the study’s lead author Ian Deary from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology.
The researchers measured each person’s biological age by studying a chemical modification to DNA, known as methylation, which can affect many genes and occur throughout a person’s life.
Riccardo E Marioni, Sonia Shah, Allan F McRae, Brian H Chen, Elena Colicino, Sarah E Harris, Jude Gibson, Anjali K Henders, Paul Redmond, Simon R Cox, Alison Pattie, Janie Corley, Lee Murphy, Nicholas G Martin, Grant W Montgomery, Andrew P Feinberg, M Daniele Fallin, Michael L Multhaup, Andrew E Jaffe, Roby Joehanes, Joel Schwartz, Allan C Just, Kathryn L Lunetta, Joanne M Murabito, John M Starr, Steve Horvath, Andrea A Baccarelli, Daniel Levy, Peter M Visscher, Naomi R Wray and Ian J Deary.DNA methylation age of blood predicts all-cause mortality in later life. Genome Biology 2015, 16:25 doi:10.1186/s13059-015-0584-6