Posted on 24 September 2020
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: Epigenetic clocks are biochemical tests which can predict biological age. The clock is based on DNA methylation levels. DNA methylation is the process in which methyl groups attach to regions of the DNA called CpG sites where they act as genetic switches, turning on or off gene expression. The increasing inaccuracy of these methyl groups to attach to the correct CpG sites, and therefore switch on/off the correct genes, as we get older is thought to be one of the root causes of aging. In recent years epigenetic clocks have emerged as a widely used tool in investigations into the aging process.
What did the researchers do: Using multi-omics data coupled with in vitro experimentation researchers primarily based at Yale University in the US, decided to study the underlying processes that the different clocks capture. Analysis of 11 different epigenetic clocks revealed that 5 of the clocks are closely related in terms of the transcriptional associations. Via the dismantling and subsequent reassembly of 5 of these epigenetic clocks, the team developed an epigenetic ‘meta-clock’.
Key takeaway(s) from this research: Through rigorous testing the meta-clock was shown to be significantly better at predicting mortality than all of the single clocks on their own. This study provides an important step forward in our understanding and effective utilisation of epigenetic clocks, and their underlying biology.