Published October 21, 2013
Researchers have discovered a way to accurately analyze a person’s ‘biological clock,’ allowing them to determine the true age of different types of human tissue and cells, Forbes.com reported.
In a study published in the journal Genome Biology, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) discovered that breast tissue ages faster than tissue in the rest of the body – and that cancerous tissue is on average 36 years older than non-cancerous tissue.
To reach these conclusions, researchers analyzed more than 8,000 human tissue samples from prior research regarding DNA methylation, a natural process that causes DNA to change over time, according to Forbes.com.
Based on the patterns he saw in these tissues, study author Steve Horvath, a professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, was able to identify 353 DNA markers from 51 cell types that change as people age.
Researchers used this information to form a statistical model that can predict aging across most tissues and cell types. Additionally, Horvath has developed a software program to make his calculation methods available to others.
Though Horvath’s findings are still preliminary, he and his colleagues hope that their study could someday help provide doctors with clues as to whether rapidly aging tissue could be a precursor to some types of diseases.
“If we see a drastic acceleration in tissue aging, that would suggest we should start looking for clues to an underlying problem,” Horvath said.
Furthermore, Horvath’s tool might also provide a basis for future research into anti-aging techniques.
“It could help us to finally understand why we age,” Horvath said. “Right now we have dozens of fairly plausible aging theories. This could be a tool for shedding light on that in a useful way.”