People become more susceptible to diseases as they age. This is true especially that most diseases affect the elderly. As to its explanation in a molecular level, not much about it had been well understood by scientists up until this research was conducted.
An international group of researchers from various institutions, led by Dr. Marjolein Peters and Dr. Andrew Johnson, conducted a gene expression meta-analysis of blood samples from 14,983 individuals of European origin. Out of the whole human genome, they were able to identify 1,497 useful genes that were differentially expressed in response to aging.
Researchers admitted that molecular factors affecting how fast people get old are hard to pinpoint. This is true especially that environmental factors, such as lifestyle and diet, also affect the aging process.
However, the team took a note on previous studies which suggested that aging can be characterized by alterations in the molecular level, such as in genes. Thus, the team focused on finding variation in gene expression - a process in which various proteins are produced based on the information expressed in the DNA sequence - in human blood samples and used them as helpful markers to determine aging.
"This study has discovered many genes that change in their patterns of expression with age. This study has not only given insights into aging mechanisms - such as mitochondrial function - but these techniques have potential use in prediction and treatment," says Dr. Luke Pilling, Associate Research Fellow in Genomic Epidemiology at University of Exeter, as quoted in the press release.
Among the identified genes, 1,450 of them are newly identified. Such genes allowed the researchers to develop a new method that can predict a person's biological age - which if older than the actual age, would hint that one is likely to suffer age-related conditions.
Many of these genes were also known to be involved in various pathways in the body. These include energy release from cells, metabolism, and stability and flexibility of cells. Such a plenty of newly identified genes provide a rich trove of data to be used for future aging studies and to help scientists better understand the molecular changes that occur along this natural process.
The study appears in the journal Nature Communications.