Aging of a person, like other living things, is a natural process of weakening of all systems and functions of the body. The most important of these are the ability to regenerate and resistance to injury and disease.
The calendar age of a person does not always correspond to his state of health, therefore there is a concept of biological age. It is determined by a large set of individual characteristics, which include lifestyle, heredity, performance and many other parameters.
One of the main genetic indicators that determine the biological age of a person is DNA methylation. This is an epigenetic, that is, one that does not affect the DNA sequence itself, a process. It consists in changing the “add-ons” on the DNA molecule, which lead to the “on” or “off” of certain genes.
That is, epigenetic changes lead to a change in the work of DNA, without changing the genetic code. Earlier, we talked about how, through epigenetic changes, grandmothers affect their grandchildren, and future mothers – on not yet conceived children. Scientists believe that homosexuality may be partly due to epigenetic factors.
It is generally accepted that DNA methylation is a process that occurs evenly and constantly throughout life. However, scientists from the Nizhny Novgorod State University. N.I. Lobachevsky (UNN), with the support of foreign colleagues, found out that DNA methylation in the body of each individual person occurs unevenly.
The researchers used data from a study of 442 twins collected over 10 years and single-shot data from 729 volunteers from Sweden. It turned out that the individual “trajectories” of DNA methylation in all these people differed depending on a number of indicators, such as genetics and environment.
Based on this discovery, researchers from Russia, Italy and the UK have developed a new approach to determining the biological age of a person. They called the DNA methylation features “individual aging trajectories.”
“People are very different, but until now we did not know how these differences affect age-related diseases, how we age. For personalized medicine, it is very important to understand the trajectories of development, adaptation, aging of each individual. The main result of our research is that What we saw: people really age in different ways “, – noted co-author of the work Mikhail Ivanchenko from the UNN.
The work, published in the open access in the authoritative foreign journal Scientific Reports, points to the heterogeneity in DNA methylation, which is observed in the elderly and people with congenital and age-related diseases.
Thanks to this discovery, the researchers plan to improve the existing mechanisms for calculating biological age: now, taking into account the individual trajectories of aging. Based on these calculations, healthcare providers will be able to deliver better, personalized care to patients in the future.