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Biomarker patterns may predict how people age: Study

Scientists are using patterns of specific biomarkers to predict how well a person is aging and their risk of age-related diseases.

By Amy Wallace
Biomarker patterns may predict how people age: Study
Researchers at Boston University are using biomarker patterns to predict how a person ages and their risk for age-related diseases. Photo by C Levers/Shutterstock

BOSTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A new study from Boston University has found that using patterns of biomarkers aids in predicting how a person is aging and their risk for age-related diseases.

Researchers analyzed biomarkers, chemicals found in the blood, from samples of nearly 5,000 participants in the Long Life Family Study.

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Results showed that about half of the participants had an average pattern of 19 biomarkers, but smaller groups had specific "signatures," or patterns of those biomarkers that deviated from the norm and were associated with increased rates of certain medical conditions, levels of physical function, and mortality risk after eight years.

"These signatures depict differences in how people age, and they show promise in predicting healthy aging, changes in cognitive and physical function, survival and age-related diseases like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer," study authors from Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine and Boston Medical Center, stated in a press release. "[This] sets the stage for a molecular-based definition of aging that leverages information from multiple circulating biomarkers to generate signatures associated with different mortality and morbidity risk."

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The study found that each biomarker pattern had different associations, for example, one pattern was associated with disease-free aging while another was associated with dementia.

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Researchers were able to generate 26 different predictive biomarker signatures as a result.

"Many prediction and risk scores already exist for predicting specific diseases like heart disease," Paola Sebastiani, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics at the BU School of Public Health and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "Here, though, we are taking another step by showing that particular patterns of groups of biomarkers can indicate how well a person is aging and his or her risk for specific age-related syndromes and diseases."

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The findings can lead to studies of drug and other medical therapies to prevent or delay age-related diseases.

"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," Dr. Thomas Perls, professor of medicine at the BU School of Medicine, director of the New England Centenarian Study and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

The study was published in the journal Aging Cell.

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