Age, those lucky enough to maintain a youthful look believe, is just a number.
Now scientists say that old saw might be true. A simple blood test that tracks biomarker signatures shows how well you’re aging — which might be slower or faster than your chronological age.
A new study published in the journal Aging Cell reports that how we age is described best by a pattern of chemicals found in our blood, not a calendar-related number. These patterns serve as alerts to the risk of developing some age-related problems later in life, perhaps even how long you’re going to live.
With this kind of information, these markers can determine an individual biological age, researchers say, which can be different from his or her chronological age.
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“We can now detect and measure thousands of biomarkers from a small amount of blood, with the idea of eventually being able to predict who is at risk of a wide range of diseases — long before any clinical signs become apparent,” senior study author Dr. Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, said in a statement.
The study tested blood biomarkers for more than 4,700 people, ranging in age from 30 to 110, who were enrolled in an ongoing international research project called the Long Life Family Study. These markers are tied to different body functions, including the immune and endocrine systems. When compared to participants’ rate of disease, they helped researchers identify how the biomarkers matched people’s age and sex.
Researchers hope their study will help in drug trials “to detect the effects, or absence of effects [of a drug], that they are looking for” much earlier than current trials of drugs do, lead study author Paola Sebastiani, a professor of biostatistics at the Boston University School of Public Health, said in a statement.