Protein levels in people’s blood can predict their age, a Stanford study has found. The study also found that aging isn’t a smoothly continuous process.
The carnival worker who tries to guess your age relies on aspects of your appearance, such as your posture and whether any wrinkles emanate from the corners of your eyes and lips. If the carny’s guess is more than a few years off, you win a stuffed koala.
But a team of Stanford University School of Medicine scientists doesn’t need to know how you look to guess your age. Instead, it watches a kind of physiological clock: the levels of 373 proteins circulating in your blood. If the clock is off, you don’t win a plush toy. But you may find out important things about your health.
“We’ve known for a long time that measuring certain proteins in the blood can give you information about a person’s health status — lipoproteins for cardiovascular health, for example,” said Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences, the D. H. Chen Professor II and co-director of the Stanford Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. “But it hasn’t been appreciated that so many different proteins’ levels — roughly a third of all the ones we looked at — change markedly with advancing age.”
Changes in the levels of numerous proteins that migrate from the body’s tissues into circulating blood not only characterize, but quite possibly cause, the phenomenon of aging, Wyss-Coray said.
A paper describing the research was published Dec. 5 in Nature Medicine. Wyss-Coray is the senior author. The lead author is neurology instructor Benoit Lehallier, PhD.
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