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Concept: Gerontology

463

Antiaging therapies show promise in model organism research. Translation to humans is needed to address the challenges of an aging global population. Interventions to slow human aging will need to be applied to still-young individuals. However, most human aging research examines older adults, many with chronic disease. As a result, little is known about aging in young humans. We studied aging in 954 young humans, the Dunedin Study birth cohort, tracking multiple biomarkers across three time points spanning their third and fourth decades of life. We developed and validated two methods by which aging can be measured in young adults, one cross-sectional and one longitudinal. Our longitudinal measure allows quantification of the pace of coordinated physiological deterioration across multiple organ systems (e.g., pulmonary, periodontal, cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, and immune function). We applied these methods to assess biological aging in young humans who had not yet developed age-related diseases. Young individuals of the same chronological age varied in their “biological aging” (declining integrity of multiple organ systems). Already, before midlife, individuals who were aging more rapidly were less physically able, showed cognitive decline and brain aging, self-reported worse health, and looked older. Measured biological aging in young adults can be used to identify causes of aging and evaluate rejuvenation therapies.

Concepts: Population, Medicine, Senescence, Ageing, Death, Biology, Gerontology, Aging

384

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is believed to be highly prevalent today because of recent increases in life expectancy and body mass index (BMI), but this assumption has not been tested using long-term historical or evolutionary data. We analyzed long-term trends in knee OA prevalence in the United States using cadaver-derived skeletons of people aged ≥50 y whose BMI at death was documented and who lived during the early industrial era (1800s to early 1900s; n = 1,581) and the modern postindustrial era (late 1900s to early 2000s; n = 819). Knee OA among individuals estimated to be ≥50 y old was also assessed in archeologically derived skeletons of prehistoric hunter-gatherers and early farmers (6000-300 B.P.; n = 176). OA was diagnosed based on the presence of eburnation (polish from bone-on-bone contact). Overall, knee OA prevalence was found to be 16% among the postindustrial sample but only 6% and 8% among the early industrial and prehistoric samples, respectively. After controlling for age, BMI, and other variables, knee OA prevalence was 2.1-fold higher (95% confidence interval, 1.5-3.1) in the postindustrial sample than in the early industrial sample. Our results indicate that increases in longevity and BMI are insufficient to explain the approximate doubling of knee OA prevalence that has occurred in the United States since the mid-20th century. Knee OA is thus more preventable than is commonly assumed, but prevention will require research on additional independent risk factors that either arose or have become amplified in the postindustrial era.

Concepts: Gerontology, Medical statistics, Industrial Revolution, Life expectancy, United Kingdom, Osteoarthritis, United States, Body mass index

253

We developed a new statistical framework to find genetic variants associated with extreme longevity. The method, informed GWAS (iGWAS), takes advantage of knowledge from large studies of age-related disease in order to narrow the search for SNPs associated with longevity. To gain support for our approach, we first show there is an overlap between loci involved in disease and loci associated with extreme longevity. These results indicate that several disease variants may be depleted in centenarians versus the general population. Next, we used iGWAS to harness information from 14 meta-analyses of disease and trait GWAS to identify longevity loci in two studies of long-lived humans. In a standard GWAS analysis, only one locus in these studies is significant (APOE/TOMM40) when controlling the false discovery rate (FDR) at 10%. With iGWAS, we identify eight genetic loci to associate significantly with exceptional human longevity at FDR < 10%. We followed up the eight lead SNPs in independent cohorts, and found replication evidence of four loci and suggestive evidence for one more with exceptional longevity. The loci that replicated (FDR < 5%) included APOE/TOMM40 (associated with Alzheimer's disease), CDKN2B/ANRIL (implicated in the regulation of cellular senescence), ABO (tags the O blood group), and SH2B3/ATXN2 (a signaling gene that extends lifespan in Drosophila and a gene involved in neurological disease). Our results implicate new loci in longevity and reveal a genetic overlap between longevity and age-related diseases and traits, including coronary artery disease and Alzheimer's disease. iGWAS provides a new analytical strategy for uncovering SNPs that influence extreme longevity, and can be applied more broadly to boost power in other studies of complex phenotypes.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Atherosclerosis, Gene, Cancer, Coronary artery disease, Senescence, Gerontology, Aging-associated diseases

228

Retirement constitutes a major life transition that poses significant challenges to health, with many retirees experiencing a precipitous decline in health status following retirement. We examine the extent to which membership in social groups following retirement determines quality of life and mortality.

Concepts: Old age, Demography, Ageing, Death, Gerontology, Epidemiology, Longitudinal study, Life

206

Altered expression of mRNA splicing factors occurs with ageing in vivo and is thought to be an ageing mechanism. The accumulation of senescent cells also occurs in vivo with advancing age and causes much degenerative age-related pathology. However, the relationship between these two processes is opaque. Accordingly we developed a novel panel of small molecules based on resveratrol, previously suggested to alter mRNA splicing, to determine whether altered splicing factor expression had potential to influence features of replicative senescence.

Concepts: Death, Cancer, Radical, Ageing, Senescence, DNA, Gerontology, Gene expression

206

Aging is the main risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD); however, the aspects of the aging process that predispose the brain to the development of AD are largely unknown. Astrocytes perform a myriad of functions in the central nervous system to maintain homeostasis and support neuronal function. In vitro, human astrocytes are highly sensitive to oxidative stress and trigger a senescence program when faced with multiple types of stress. In order to determine whether senescent astrocytes appear in vivo, brain tissue from aged individuals and patients with AD was examined for the presence of senescent astrocytes using p16(INK4a) and matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) expression as markers of senescence. Compared with fetal tissue samples (n = 4), a significant increase in p16(INK4a)-positive astrocytes was observed in subjects aged 35 to 50 years (n = 6; P = 0.02) and 78 to 90 years (n = 11; P<10(-6)). In addition, the frontal cortex of AD patients (n = 15) harbored a significantly greater burden of p16(INK4a)-positive astrocytes compared with non-AD adult control subjects of similar ages (n = 25; P = 0.02) and fetal controls (n = 4; P<10(-7)). Consistent with the senescent nature of the p16(INK4a)-positive astrocytes, increased metalloproteinase MMP-1 correlated with p16(INK4a). In vitro, beta-amyloid 1-42 (Aβ(1-42)) triggered senescence, driving the expression of p16(INK4a) and senescence-associated beta-galactosidase. In addition, we found that senescent astrocytes produce a number of inflammatory cytokines including interleukin-6 (IL-6), which seems to be regulated by p38MAPK. We propose that an accumulation of p16(INK4a)-positive senescent astrocytes may link increased age and increased risk for sporadic AD.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Death, Gerontology, Ageing, Neuron, Brain, Senescence, Nervous system

195

Understanding aging is a grand challenge in biology. Exceptionally long-lived animals have mechanisms that underpin extreme longevity. Telomeres are protective nucleotide repeats on chromosome tips that shorten with cell division, potentially limiting life span. Bats are the longest-lived mammals for their size, but it is unknown whether their telomeres shorten. Using >60 years of cumulative mark-recapture field data, we show that telomeres shorten with age inRhinolophus ferrumequinumandMiniopterus schreibersii, but not in the bat genus with greatest longevity,Myotis. As in humans, telomerase is not expressed inMyotis myotisblood or fibroblasts. Selection tests on telomere maintenance genes show thatATMandSETX, which repair and prevent DNA damage, potentially mediate telomere dynamics inMyotisbats. Twenty-one telomere maintenance genes are differentially expressed inMyotis, of which 14 are enriched for DNA repair, and 5 for alternative telomere-lengthening mechanisms. We demonstrate how telomeres, telomerase, and DNA repair genes have contributed to the evolution of exceptional longevity inMyotisbats, advancing our understanding of healthy aging.

Concepts: Cell, Histone, Gerontology, DNA repair, Evolution, Gene, Senescence, DNA

185

Cathie Sudlow and colleagues describe the UK Biobank, a large population-based prospective study, established to allow investigation of the genetic and non-genetic determinants of the diseases of middle and old age.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Europe, Retirement, Ageing, Genetic disorder, Old age, Gerontology, Death

180

One of the strongest risk factors for dementia is the ε4 variant of the APOE gene. Yet, many who carry it never develop dementia. The current study examined for the first time whether positive age beliefs that are acquired from the culture may reduce the risk of developing dementia among older individuals, including those who are APOE ε4 carriers. The cohort consisted of 4,765 Health and Retirement Study participants who were aged 60 or older and dementia-free at baseline. As predicted, in the total sample those with positive age beliefs at baseline were significantly less likely to develop dementia, after adjusting for relevant covariates. Among those with APOE ε4, those with positive age beliefs were 49.8% less likely to develop dementia than those with negative age beliefs. The results of this study suggest that positive age beliefs, which are modifiable and have been found to reduce stress, can act as a protective factor, even for older individuals at high risk of dementia.

Concepts: Retirement, Gerontology, Ageing

179

The Northwestern University SuperAging Program studies a rare cohort of individuals over age 80 with episodic memory ability at least as good as middle-age adults to determine what factors contribute to their elite memory performance. As psychological well-being is positively correlated with cognitive performance in older adults, the present study examined whether aspects of psychological well-being distinguish cognitive SuperAgers from their cognitively average-for-age, same-age peers.

Concepts: Episodic memory, Gerontology, Psychology, Middle age, Old age, Cognition, Cognitive psychology, Memory