DNA encodes the genes through which organisms live. DNA can be altered by a process called methylation which chemical tags are placed on the DNA. This is a method by which gene transcription can be controlled and modified, and is known as epigenetic.
A group of researchers performed a study to particularly looking at how DNA methylation changes with age and which genes in are involved.
They wanted to determine the epigentic changes that underlie the aging process with the hope of finding targets to direct anti-aging or age delaying therapies.
To do so they performed an epigenome wide analysis and looked for correlation to observable changes of aging. The age-related changes they looked at included “telomere length, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), FEV1 and FVC to examine lung function, grip strength, bone mineral density (BMD), serum levels of DHEAS, serum total cholesterol levels, serum high density cholesterol levels (HDL), calculated levels of serum low density cholesterol (LDL), serum albumin levels, serum creatinine levels, maternal longevity (MLONG), paternal longevity (PLONG), maternal age at reproduction (MREPROD), and paternal age at reproduction (PREPROD).”
They were able to identify 490 age- related epigenetic changes. These epigenetic changes were in four genes related to cholesterol, lung function and maternal longevity. They also discovered these changes were already present in young subjects suggesting that some age-determinants may be decided early in life.
The researchers concluded “we identified methylation changes associated with chronological age and ageing-related phenotypes and we explored mechanisms underlying ageing-related changes in DNA methylation. Both environmental and genetic factors are thought to contribute to healthy ageing, and epigenetic mechanisms represent a potential pathway of mediating these effects on ageing and age related traits.”