Determining how well you age takes a lot more than just looking skin deep and has little to do with your chronological age. Researchers have now developed a blood test that can signal if people are at risk for developing age-related health illnesses.
The use of biomarker signatures in the blood offer insight into a person’s risk for developing diseases as determined by age and even their death.
“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,” said senior study author Dr. Thomas Perls, a professor of Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, in a statement.
Nearly 5,000 people enrolled in an ongoing international research project, called the Long Life Family Study participated in the study. Biomarkers were linked to body functions like those of the immune system, endocrine system, kidneys and metabolism. And many of these biomarker levels vary with age, according to researchers.
Researchers found that nearly half of the participants had a signature or pattern of 19 biomarkers in their blood samples. Individuals involved in the study ranged in age from 30 to 110 years old.
Smaller groups of those in the study had patterns of biomarkers that deviated from the norm and were associated with increased risk of specific medical conditions, levels of physical function and even mortality risk.
Another pattern was associated with disease-free aging, another with dementia, and another with disability-free aging in the presence of cardiovascular disease.
“Many prediction and risk scores already exist for predicting specific diseases like heart disease,” co-lead study author Paola Sebastiani, PhD, and professor of Biostatistics at the BU School of Public Health said. “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.”
Continued research in biomarker signatures could provide big breakthroughs for both preventative medicine and future drug research.
“Following all the recent advances in genetics,” Perls said, “ the science of proteomics and metabolomics is the next big revolution in predictive medicine and drug discovery.”