Page URL:

Ageing genes identified in twin study

23 April 2012
Appeared in BioNews 653

Chemical alterations in a group of genes affect how we age, scientists have discovered. These changes switch genes on or off in response to diet or environmental factors throughout our lives. Researchers found that four genes that are epigenetically switched off in later life may have a bearing on how well we age.

Epigenetic changes have previously been connected to the ageing process, but exactly how and when these changes occur remains unclear. This study, published in PLoS Genetics, identified 490 epigenetic changes that increased with age, but as co-author Dr Jordana Bell from King's College London, explained, 'four seemed to impact the rate of healthy ageing and potential longevity'.

Changes to these four genes were linked to differences in cholesterol levels and lung function, and researchers think they will be useful as potential markers of ageing.

Initially, the team identified the epigenetic changes in the DNA of 172 identical twins aged 32 to 80. However, analysis of a set of 44 younger twins, aged 22 to 61, revealed that several alterations can also occur in young adults. Epigenetic changes usually begin with a single trigger, and this work suggests that a proportion of these alterations may be triggered early in life.

Pairs of identical twins were used to distinguish genetically inherited traits and those caused by environmental factors.

'This study is the first glimpse of the potential that large twin studies have to find the key genes involved in ageing, how they can be modified by lifestyle and start to develop anti-ageing therapies', said co-author Professor Tim Spector, the director of the Department of Twin Research at King's College London. 'The future will be very exciting for age research'.

Understanding which genes are involved in ageing and how they are regulated may be the key to generating useful anti-ageing drugs. However, the genes identified by this study may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Study co-leader Dr Panos Deloukas, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, said: 'Our study interrogated only a fraction of sites in the genome that carry such epigenetic changes; these initial findings support the need for a more comprehensive scan of epigenetic variation'.

Breakthrough in ageing genes study
Press Association |  20 April 2012
Epigenome-Wide Scans Identify Differentially Methylated Regions for Age and Age-Related Phenotypes in a Healthy Ageing Population
PLOS Genetics |  19 April 2012
Key genes that switch off with aging highlighted as potential targets for anti-aging therapies
Science Codex |  19 April 2012
Who wants to live forever? Genetic breakthrough could pave way for drugs that slow - or halt - the ageing process
Daily Mail |  19 April 2012
28 April 2014 - by James Brooks 
Blood tests of a woman who lived to 115 have revealed that when she died the majority of the white blood cells in her body originated from just two stem cells...
16 December 2013 - by Professor John Galloway 
Why do we think we can learn anything useful (other than about twins themselves) from twins? It might be thought that the most important thing about them is their 'twinliness', the one attribute denied to non-twins. Science thinks otherwise...
11 November 2013 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
A gene normally only expressed in embryos has been shown to improve tissue repair in adult mice...
27 August 2013 - by Matthew Thomas 
Genetic mutations passed on from mothers may speed up the ageing process and shorten life expectancy, according to a study on mice...
8 April 2013 - by Dr Greg Ball 
Genes that influence the so-called 'biological age' of cells may also influence susceptibility to many age-related diseases...
31 January 2012 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
Unhealthy lifestyles associated with social deprivation may have detrimental effects on DNA before birth, say scientists. A study of adults living in Glasgow shows a correlation between deprivation and DNA methylation - a normal process that occurs mainly during embryonic development and regulates gene activity...
31 January 2012 - by Victoria Kay 
Thirteen genomic regions appear to influence the age at onset of menopause, according to a genetic study. These regions contain genes involved in DNA repair and immune responses, processes not previously linked to menopause...
3 October 2011 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
A gene associated with increased lifespan in a number of organisms is now thought to have no effect on longevity after a second look revealed significant flaws in the original studies on which the assumptions were based. The findings will disappoint the manufacturers of many anti-ageing creams that claim to work by activating the gene, but are unlikely to put a stop to research...
20 June 2011 - by Dr Susan Kelly 
The world of genetically predicted futures has recently been joined by a test for what is advertised as ‘biological age’. The test promises to provide information about the rate at which one is ageing – and knowing when you will die would make planning for the future so much easier!...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.