Will “What’s your ageotype” replace “what’s your sign” as an ice-breaker?
People age differently, at different speeds and through different body processes, a recent study of aging by Stanford University School of Medicine found. Led by Stanford’s genetics department chairman, Dr. Michael Snyder, the team’s research involved a group of 43 healthy participants between the ages of 34 and 68 years who agreed to undergo assessing for molecular biology markers at least five different times over 2 years.
The study detected four distinct patterns based on biochemical markers that changed over time in a person along a specific biological pathway: metabolic (relating to the buildup and breakdown of substances in the body), immune (relating to immune responses), liver function, and kidney function. (For instance, an individual was classified as a “metabolic ager” if his or her metabolic markers changed over time.)
Dubbed “ageotypes,” the patterns are important because they zero in on health-risk factors and pinpoint areas that are apt to cause problems later on. But they aren’t mutually exclusive: Some people showed signs of aging across all four patterns; others, in just one or two.
Slowing down aging?
Surprisingly, not everyone studied showed more markers linked to aging as they grew older. In some people, the overall rate of aging declined, or even the aging markers declined – at least for a short time. Sometimes such positive results seemed due to changing their behavior or taking certain medications. For example, many “metabolic agers” lost weight while one changed their diet; some “kidney agers” who had decreased creatinine levels took statins. (But not always. Sometimes, the reason for the slower-than-average aging process was a mystery.)
The markers measured were biological molecules and microbes found in blood and stool samples – like proteins, lipids, metabolites (made when the body breaks down food, drugs and muscle and fat tissue), certain gut bacteria, a form of hemoglobin linked with diabetes and creatinine, whose higher levels are linked to kidney trouble.
The study was done because molecular changes that occur with aging aren’t well understood. If we understand what form or forms of aging we are predisposed to, we are also empowered to come up with a strategy to prevent specific health problems and possibly slow down certain aging processes.
The subjects were part of a larger aging study of 106 people. The study was published in Nature Medicine in January 2020.