A study finds link between DNA methylation and human life span
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied 5000 individuals over 14 years for chemical changes in their DNA that accumulate over a lifetime, and found a new indicator of aging. The chemical changes the researchers studied consist of methylation marks in DNA, which alter the activity of genes. DNA methylation predicts mortality independently of health status, lifestyle factors, and known genetic factors. With the use of standard measures that compare a person’s chronological age to the age predicted by DNA methylation, the researchers discovered that when a person’s DNA methylation age was five years older than his or her chronological age, the person’s chance of dying sooner than others without that profile rose. The research team thinks of DNA methylation as an ‘epigenetic clock’ that measures biological age.