Quick blood test may predict lifespan and future health
Scientists claim that a ground-breaking new blood test performed during infancy may help to highlight any possible health issues that could occur later in life in addition to predicting how fast the person will age and how long they could expect to live to. The scientists, from King’s College London, have found chemical ‘fingerprints’ in the blood and these chemical markers, known as metabolites, provide clues to how a person will age. The 22 metabolites identified are also linked to metabolism, and one in particular is connected to ageing-related problems such as lung function and bone mineral density, but is also associated with birth weight – a important factor in helping to predict healthy aging. Those behind the study state levels of the particular metabolite may be determined in the womb and nutrition could impact on this. The metabolite in question, C-glyTrp, could offer clues to the speed someone will age during adulthood, the scientists claim. They say that high levels of C-glyTrp have been shown to be associated with lower birth weight during comparisons of several sets of identical twins. Identical twins share genes and this means that either nutrition plays an important role in levels of the metabolite, or a change in conditions inside the womb. Following analysis on the blood samples from over 6,000 twins, the 22 metabolites connected to chronological age were found, with high levels in older people. It was discovered a modification could be applied to the gene affecting levels of C-glyTrp via epigenetics. This is the way in which environmental factors switch genes on or off and change the way they function. Epigenetic alterations could affect metabolism over the course of a person’s life, thus impacting on their vulnerability to developing age-related diseases. Study leader Professor Tim Spector, from King's College London, said: “Scientists have known for a long time that a person's weight at the time of birth is an important determinant of health in middle and old age, and that people with low birth weight are more susceptible to age related diseases. So far the molecular mechanisms that link low birth weight to health or disease in old age had remained elusive, but this discovery has revealed one of the molecular pathways involved.” Co-author Ana Valdes added: “As these 22 metabolites linked to ageing are detectable in the blood, we can now predict actual age from a blood sample pretty accurately and in the future this can be refined to potentially identify future rapid biological ageing in individuals. This unique metabolite, which is related to age and age-related diseases, was different in genetically identical twins that had very different weight at birth. This shows us that birth weight affects a molecular mechanism that alters this metabolite.” The researchers now hope their findings will pave the way for powerful and revolutionary new treatments and drug therapies to help with age-related health problems, in addition to bone and heart conditions.