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Longevity Briefs: Biological Aging Clocks Developed for Rhesus Monkeys – Accelerating Testing Drugs for Human Longevity

Posted on 6 October 2020

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Rhesus macaque monkeys are the most frequently used non-human primate in biological research. Although they pose greater logistical challenges as an investigative model when compared to other model organisms such as mice or yeast, they give a much more accurate reflection of how a human may react to a given treatment. Being able to accurately and reliably measure how a particular treatment impacts their biological age is imperative for gathering useful data.

Biological aging clocks, or epigenetic clocks, are biochemical tests which can predict biological age. In recent years, epigenetic clocks have become increasingly utilised in longevity studies to measure a process called DNA methylation. This can be used as a biomarker for biological aging (you can read more about epigenetic clocks here).

What did the researchers do: Using 281 tissue samples, a research team led by Prof. Steve Horvath, the founder of the first epigenetic clock, looked to develop bespoke epigenetic clocks that can be used on the macaques to gather accurate data on their biological age.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: The team developed 5 different epigenetic clocks for the monkeys. The clocks targeted different tissues types (blood, skin and pan-tissue) and could even be used in humans too. This cross validation shows that the methylation which correlates with aging is conserved across both species, adding important justification that studies looking at the impact of treatments on the biological aging of rhesus monkeys will translate to humans. The developments of these clocks will aid future research which use rhesus macaques as a model to study aging to identify and validate anti-aging treatments.

Cross-validation study of epigenetic clocks for rhesus macaques and humans. Source:

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