Rate of aging may be determined in the womb
Scientists from King's College London have discovered that key metabolites in blood--signs of molecular changes during birth or infancy--could help provide clues to a person's long-term health and the rate of how they age. These chemical "fingerprints" can be linked to aging, including traits such as lung function, cholesterol, blood pressure and bone mineral density. One metabolite in particular – of the 22 linked to aging – could be affected by nutrition during an infant’s development and has been strongly associated with a baby’s birthweight.
Using a technique called metabolomic profiling, the researchers studied the metabolites that are left behind by specific cellular processes or changes in the blood. By analyzing blood samples donated by 6,000 twins, the study identified 22 metabolites linked directly to aging, where concentrations of these metabolites were higher in older people than younger people.
Epigenetic modifications, where genes are switched on or off by environmental or lifestyle factors, could explain the link between birthweight and these metabolites. The metabolites could influence a person's metabolism, for example, which could then influence their risk of age-related diseases.
Scientists say the findings show it is possible that these markers of aging can be identified with simple blood tests in the future, which may provide further clues to the aging process and lead to development of therapies to treat age-related conditions.