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Body + BrainBody & Brain

Act Your (Molecular) Age

ByTim De ChantNOVA NextNOVA Next

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David Stripp, reporting for the New York Times:

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Developing an “easy way to measure biological age will have a wide array of applications in prediction and prevention of age-related diseases, drug discovery and forensics,” said Dr. Kang Zhang, founding director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

The quest for truly revealing biomarkers of aging could tell us a lot about our current and future health. Tracking these indexes before and after starting a new diet or exercise program, for instance, might show you whether it was actually pushing off your decline and fall. Aging-rate tests could help scientists evaluate possible anti-aging compounds in humans without prohibitively long studies.

The new science behind aging goes well beyond simple—and muddled—measures like wrinkles and blood pressure. Now, scientists are looking as deep as our DNA, reading embedded markers that control gene expression and have also been found to correlate with aging.

Wrinkles are a deceptive sign of aging as exposure to sun and wind can speed their formation.

They’re also finding signs of aging related to tumors. Paradoxically, cancer cells—which are or are seemingly immortal—initiate accelerated aging in nearby noncancerous cells. Someday, age testing may be part of a routine panel—and it may catch cancer in its very earliest stages.