Protein Levels in Blood Help Scientists Predict People’s Age
Thu, April 22, 2021

Protein Levels in Blood Help Scientists Predict People’s Age

A Stanford study has recently found that the level of protein in people’s blood is a predictor of their age. The same study has also found that aging is not a “continuous process” / Photo by: Jarun Ontakrai via Shutterstock

 

A Stanford study has recently found that the level of protein in people’s blood is a predictor of their age. The same study has also found that aging is not a “continuous process,”

Author Benoit Lehallier from the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and colleagues shared that aging is the main risk factor for various chronic diseases that limit people's lives. With their findings, they can help identify people who are aging rapidly and are at risk of age-linked diseases and conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer’s disease. 

It may also help people in the healthcare industry find therapeutic interventions and drugs that can slow down the process of aging. The results of their study may likewise provide people with a warning about the unanticipated tendency of a drug to accelerate aging.

The Body’s Physiological Clock: 373 Proteins

The team shared that although they’ve recognized for a long time that measuring particular proteins in the blood can give information about the health status of an individual, past studies have not appreciated that other levels of proteins also change markedly as people age. Stanford University scientists guess people’s age by observing the levels of 373 proteins circulating in their blood.

During their experiment, they measured the plasma proteins of 4,263 individuals between 18 and 95 years old. These plasma proteins are the “cell-free fluid fraction of blood,” Tony Wyss-Coray, Ph.D., professor of neurology and neurological science, said. These proteins serve as the “workhorses” of the constituent cells in the body such that when their relative level experience changes, it also means that the person has changed too.

Senior author Wyss-Coray added that when they looked at the thousands of plasma of their subjects, it provided them with a snapshot of what was happening throughout their body.

Stanford University scientists guess people’s age by observing the levels of 373 proteins circulating in their blood / Photo by: nobeastsofierce via Shutterstock

 

Physiological Aging Does Not Happen at an Even Pace

The results of their study suggest that a person’s physiological age does not just proceed at a smooth, even pace. Instead, it appears to chart in a herky-jerky trajectory or sudden stops and starts. These three inflection points (change of direction) in a person’s life cycle occur at ages 34, 60, and 78 on average. There are also distinct times when the blood-born proteins rise in abundance. Instead of just decreasing or increasing steadily or remaining the same throughout one’s life, the levels of proteins in the blood are constant for a certain time and undergo an unexpected downward or upward shift. These shifts may happen at three separate points: during young adulthood, late middle age, and when a person reaches old age.

Physiological vs. Chronological Age

The team went on to explain that a reduced set of 373 proteins circulating in the blood was already enough to accurately predict a person’s age. However, there were cases of divergence between the participants’ physiological and chronological age. Physiological age is how well or poorly the body is functioning while chronological age is the measure of a person’s age based on the calendar date. 

In explaining such divergence further, the team used the data on cognitive function and hand-grip strength. Participants with stronger hand grips and better mental cognition were assumed by the plasma-protein clock as younger than their actual calendar age.

Professor Wyss-Coray explained that people will ideally want to know how anything they did or took in the past has affected their physiological age. This is why their new approach to studying aging can lead to the identification of pathways and signatures that can potentially target age-related conditions and diseases.

Aging and Health

Intergovernmental organization United Nations has shared that the world’s population is aging. Every country is experiencing growth in the proportion and number of older persons. The statistics in the World Population Prospects: the 2019 Revision say that one in six people in the world will be over 65 years old by 2050.

UN’s World Population Prospect distributed the 2080.5 million people in the world aged 60 years or over by 2050 as follows: 225.8 million in Africa, 1273.2 million in Asia, 247.2 million in Europe, 122.8 million in Northern America, 198.2 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 13.3 million in Oceania.

In 2017, the world population aged 60 years or over was numbered at 962 million, which is double the number in 1980 when there were only 382 million older people globally. In general, older women are more likely to live alone than older men.

Keys to Healthy Aging

Nevertheless, feeling your best and staying healthy is important at any age. Mental health and wellness platform Help Guide suggested the key to healthy aging. These include (1) learning to cope with change or building resilience as there will be periods of stress and joy as people age, (2) finding joy and meaning in life even after retirement and children leave home, (3) staying connected or maintaining support network, (4) boosting vitality and getting active, and (5) keeping your mind as sharp as your body.

Intergovernmental organization United Nations has shared that the world’s population is aging. Every country is experiencing growth in the proportion and number of older persons / Photo by: Olena Yakobchuk via Shutterstock