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A new approach to determining a person's biological age has been proposed by scientists at the Laboratory of Systems Medicine of Healthy Aging at Lobachevsky University. The researchers suggest that individual trajectories of aging should be taken as the basis to determine one's biological age. The results of the study have been published in the online journal Scientific Reports. Scientists from Lobachevsky University, Bologna University (Italy) and University College London (UK) took part in the project.

The authors of the work studied one of the main indicators of a person's biological age – DNA methylation – a change in DNA molecules that can “turn on” and “turn off” certain genes. This process is necessary for the development of a living organism, specialization of stem cells, and the formation of tissues and organs. By measuring methylation, one can understand the degree and rate of aging of the body.

Until now, the epigenetic clock, which is actually a set of parameters for determining biological age, took into account the uniform, linear change in methylation rates throughout life. The researchers analyzed longitudinal data from 442 Swedish twins followed for over ten years and cross-sectional data from 729 Swedish men and women. Reconstruction of individual trajectories of DNA methylation showed that this process is uneven in most cases and there are certain reasons for that. Methylation corresponds to the unique characteristics of an organism's development, such as genetics and the environment (socio-economic status of a person, his/her lifestyle, habits, climate, ecology, etc.).

“People are very different, but until now we did not know how these differences affect age-related diseases and the way we age. For personalized medicine, it is very important to understand the trajectories of development, adaptation, aging of each individual. The main result of our research is that now we see that people really age in different ways,” comments Mikhail Ivanchenko, UNN Vice-Rector for Research.

The results obtained explain the considerable heterogeneity in methylation, which is observed in the elderly and in people who have age-related pathologies: Down's syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, and oncological diseases. The authors of the study plan to develop a more accurate epigenetic clock that will take into account individual biological age trajectories. This is a new step in the research of the aging mechanisms and in the development of personalized medicine.