New "catalogue" created for measuring biological age

Data from the Orkney Complex Disease Study has been used to create a new catalogue which can help predict biological age.

Orkney Couple

We all know that the risk of certain conditions gets higher as we get older, including those linked to the main causes of death, such as heart disease. We also have many traits that are often linked with ageing, such as:

  • Greying hair
  • Wrinkly skin
  • Poor posture

However, these traits can be very different between people of the same age, also known as chronological age.

Interestingly, ageing can also be seen at a molecular level. Examples include:

  • Shortening of the ends of chromosomes
  • An increased chance of genetic mutations
  • The loss of the power of a cell to divide and grow over time

These molecular changes can occur at different rates in people with the same chronological age. Just as different people appear to age at different rates, some being very well preserved and others less so.

This has given rise to the idea of biological age, an underlying measure that tries to predict your risk of certain health conditions or even death. A person's biological age can be identified by molecular changes, such as those listed above. Therefore, measuring biological age could be better at predicting future health than actual, chronological, age. 

Importantly, biological age may be reversible, unlike chronological age, because biological processes can be modified by drugs or other therapies.

The research team, led by Prof Jim Flett Wilson, performed the most exhaustive comparison to date of many different types of genetic and molecular data. They created eleven genetic and molecular ageing clocks. This allowed them to calculate biological age and compare this to chronological ages. By doing this, the researchers were able to make a catalogue of which measures are the best molecular predictors of biological age.

The research was mainly carried out using data from 1,000 volunteers in the Orkney Complex Disease Study (ORCADES). It was made possible using this study data because ORCADES carried out a lot of traditional clinic measures, as well as a very large number of genetic and molecular measurements and has about 12 years of follow up through NHS electronic health records.

The paper was published in Aging and can be read in the link below.

A catalogue of omics biological ageing clocks reveals substantial commonality and associations with disease risk