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Longevity Briefs: Can Red Blood Cell Size Predict Biological Age?

Posted on 8 September 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: Measuring the effects of lifespan-extending interventions in fruit flies, worms, or other short lived experimental animals is relatively easy. In humans, however, the only practical way of measuring the success of lifespan extension is by measuring biomarkers of ageing – measurable markers of biological age. Identifying these biomarkers is therefore important for longevity research.

What did the researchers do: In this study, researchers asked whether variation in red blood cell size could predict the incidence and severity of age-related conditions, thereby serving as a marker for biological ageing. They measured red cell size variations alongside factors such as frailty, cognitive function, as well as mortality during the followup period, in 3635 elderly men.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Participants with greater variability in red cell size were weaker, walked more slowly, and had worse cognitive function. They were also more likely to develop new limitations and to become frail, and experienced more frequent falls. Those with highest variability in red blood cell size were more likely to be hospitalised. Finally, variability in red cell size was related to total and cause-specific mortality.

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