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Journal: Aging


Estimates of biological age based on DNA methylation patterns, often referred to as “epigenetic age”, “DNAm age”, have been shown to be robust biomarkers of age in humans. We previously demonstrated that independent of chronological age, epigenetic age assessed in blood predicted all-cause mortality in four human cohorts. Here, we expanded our original observation to 13 different cohorts for a total sample size of 13,089 individuals, including three racial/ethnic groups. In addition, we examined whether incorporating information on blood cell composition into the epigenetic age metrics improves their predictive power for mortality. All considered measures of epigenetic age acceleration were predictive of mortality (p≤8.2x10(-9)), independent of chronological age, even after adjusting for additional risk factors (p<5.4x10(-4)), and within the racial/ethnic groups that we examined (non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, African Americans). Epigenetic age estimates that incorporated information on blood cell composition led to the smallest p-values for time to death (p=7.5x10(-43)). Overall, this study a) strengthens the evidence that epigenetic age predicts all-cause mortality above and beyond chronological age and traditional risk factors, and b) demonstrates that epigenetic age estimates that incorporate information on blood cell counts lead to highly significant associations with all-cause mortality.

Concepts: Scientific method, Histone, DNA methylation, DNA


MtDNA mutator mice exhibit marked features of premature aging. We find that these mice treated from age of ≈100 days with the mitochondria-targeted antioxidant SkQ1 showed a delayed appearance of traits of aging such as kyphosis, alopecia, lowering of body temperature, body weight loss, as well as ameliorated heart, kidney and liver pathologies. These effects of SkQ1 are suggested to be related to an alleviation of the effects of an enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) level in mtDNA mutator mice: the increased mitochondrial ROS released due to mitochondrial mutations probably interact with polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiolipin, releasing malondialdehyde and 4-hydroxynonenal that form protein adducts and thus diminishes mitochondrial functions. SkQ1 counteracts this as it scavenges mitochondrial ROS. As the results, the normal mitochondrial ultrastructure is preserved in liver and heart; the phosphorylation capacity of skeletal muscle mitochondria as well as the thermogenic capacity of brown adipose tissue is also improved. The SkQ1-treated mice live significantly longer (335 versus 290 days). These data may be relevant in relation to treatment of mitochondrial diseases particularly and the process of aging in general.

Concepts: Obesity, Muscle, Ageing, Nutrition, Oxygen, Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species, Mitochondrion


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease affecting multiple tissues of the joints in the elderly, but most notably articular cartilage. Premature biological aging has been described in this tissue and in blood cells, suggesting a systemic component of premature aging in the pathogenesis of OA. Here, we have explored epigenetic aging in OA at the local (cartilage and bone) and systemic (blood) levels. Two DNA methylation age-measures (DmAM) were used: the multi-tissue age estimator for cartilage and bone; and a blood-specific biomarker for blood. Differences in DmAM between OA patients and controls showed an accelerated aging of 3.7 years in articular cartilage (95% CI = 1.1 to 6.3, P = 0.008) of OA patients. By contrast, no difference in epigenetic aging was observed in bone (0.04 years; 95% CI = -1.8 to 1.9, P = 0.3) and in blood (-0.6 years; 95% CI = -1.5 to 0.3, P = 0.2) between OA patients and controls. Therefore, premature epigenetic aging according to DNA methylation changes was specific of OA cartilage, adding further evidence and insight on premature aging of cartilage as a component of OA pathogenesis that reflects damage and vulnerability.

Concepts: Cartilage, Knee, DNA methylation, DNA, Bone, Death, Ageing, Gerontology


The development of healthspan-extending pharmaceuticals requires quantitative estimation of age-related progressive physiological decline. In humans, individual health status can be quantitatively assessed by means of a frailty index (FI), a parameter which reflects the scale of accumulation of age-related deficits. However, adaptation of this methodology to animal models is a challenging task since it includes multiple subjective parameters. Here we report a development of a quantitative non-invasive procedure to estimate biological age of an individual animal by creating physiological frailty index (PFI). We demonstrated the dynamics of PFI increase during chronological aging of male and female NIH Swiss mice. We also demonstrated acceleration of growth of PFI in animals placed on a high fat diet, reflecting aging acceleration by obesity and provide a tool for its quantitative assessment. Additionally, we showed that PFI could reveal anti-aging effect of mTOR inhibitor rapatar (bioavailable formulation of rapamycin) prior to registration of its effects on longevity. PFI revealed substantial sex-related differences in normal chronological aging and in the efficacy of detrimental (high fat diet) or beneficial (rapatar) aging modulatory factors. Together, these data introduce PFI as a reliable, non-invasive, quantitative tool suitable for testing potential anti-aging pharmaceuticals in pre-clinical studies.

Concepts: Quantitative marketing research, Gerontology, Sociology, Ageing, Scientific method, Quantitative research


Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most significant healthcare problems nationally and globally. Recently, the first description of the reversal of cognitive decline in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or its precursors, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and SCI (subjective cognitive impairment), was published [1]. The therapeutic approach used was programmatic and personalized rather than monotherapeutic and invariant, and was dubbed metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND). Patients who had had to discontinue work were able to return to work, and those struggling at work were able to improve their performance. The patients, their spouses, and their co-workers all reported clear improvements. Here we report the results from quantitative MRI and neuropsychological testing in ten patients with cognitive decline, nine ApoE4+ (five homozygous and four heterozygous) and one ApoE4-, who were treated with the MEND protocol for 5-24 months. The magnitude of the improvement is unprecedented, providing additional objective evidence that this programmatic approach to cognitive decline is highly effective. These results have far-reaching implications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, MCI, and SCI; for personalized programs that may enhance pharmaceutical efficacy; and for personal identification of ApoE genotype.

Concepts: Neurocognitive, Mild cognitive impairment, Better, Zygosity, Medicine, Improve, Alzheimer's disease, Apolipoprotein E


We undertook a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of parental longevity in European descent UK Biobank participants. For combined mothers' and fathers' attained age, 10 loci were associated (p<5*10-8), including 8 previously identified for traits including survival, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease. Of these, 4 were also associated with longest 10% survival (mothers age ≥90 years, fathers ≥87 years), with 2 additional associations including MC2R intronic variants (coding for the adrenocorticotropic hormone receptor). Mother's age at death was associated with 3 additional loci (2 linked to autoimmune conditions), and 8 for fathers only. An attained age genetic risk score associated with parental survival in the US Health and Retirement Study and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and with having a centenarian parent (n=1,181) in UK Biobank. The results suggest that human longevity is highly polygenic with prominent roles for loci likely involved in cellular senescence and inflammation, plus lipid metabolism and cardiovascular conditions. There may also be gender specific routes to longevity.

Concepts: Parent, Senescence, Disease, Genome-wide association study, Ageing, Death, Gerontology, Mother


In C. elegans, miRNAs are genetic biomarkers of aging. Similarly, multiple miRNAs are differentially expressed between younger and older persons, suggesting that miRNA-regulated biological mechanisms affecting aging are evolutionarily conserved. Previous human studies have not considered participants' lifespans, a key factor in identifying biomarkers of aging. Using PCR arrays, we measured miRNA levels from serum samples obtained longitudinally at ages 50, 55, and 60 from 16 non-Hispanic males who had documented lifespans from 58 to 92. Numerous miRNAs showed significant changes in expression levels. At age 50, 24 miRNAs were significantly upregulated, and 73 were significantly downregulated in the long-lived subgroup (76-92 years) as compared with the short-lived subgroup (58-75 years). In long-lived participants, the most upregulated was miR-373-5p, while the most downregulated was miR-15b-5p. Longitudinally, significant Pearson correlations were observed between lifespan and expression of nine miRNAs (p value<0.05). Six of these nine miRNAs (miR-211-5p, 374a-5p, 340-3p, 376c-3p, 5095, 1225-3p) were also significantly up- or downregulated when comparing long-lived and short-lived participants. Twenty-four validated targets of these miRNAs encoded aging-associated proteins, including PARP1, IGF1R, and IGF2R. We propose that the expression profiles of the six miRNAs (miR-211-5p, 374a-5p, 340-3p, 376c-3p, 5095, and 1225-3p) may be useful biomarkers of aging.

Concepts: Gene, RNA, DNA, Gene expression


Populations in developed nations throughout the world are rapidly aging, and the search for geroprotectors, or anti-aging interventions, has never been more important. Yet while hundreds of geroprotectors have extended lifespan in animal models, none have yet been approved for widespread use in humans. GeroScope is a computational tool that can aid prediction of novel geroprotectors from existing human gene expression data. GeroScope maps expression differences between samples from young and old subjects to aging-related signaling pathways, then profiles pathway activation strength (PAS) for each condition. Known substances are then screened and ranked for those most likely to target differential pathways and mimic the young signalome. Here we used GeroScope and shortlisted ten substances, all of which have lifespan-extending effects in animal models, and tested 6 of them for geroprotective effects in senescent human fibroblast cultures. PD-98059, a highly selective MEK1 inhibitor, showed both life-prolonging and rejuvenating effects. Natural compounds like N-acetyl-L-cysteine, Myricetin and Epigallocatechin gallate also improved several senescence-associated properties and were further investigated with pathway analysis. This work not only highlights several potential geroprotectors for further study, but also serves as a proof-of-concept for GeroScope, Oncofinder and other PAS-based methods in streamlining drug prediction, repurposing and personalized medicine.

Concepts: Cancer, In vitro, DNA, Cell, Organism, Genetics, Gene, Gene expression


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n3-PUFA) are recognized for their anti-inflammatory effects and may be beneficial in the context of sarcopenia. We determined the influence of n3-PUFA on muscle mitochondrial physiology and protein metabolism in older adults. Twelve young (18-35 years) and older (65-85 years) men and women were studied at baseline. Older adults were studied again following n3-PUFA supplementation (3.9g/day, 16 weeks). Muscle biopsies were used to evaluate respiratory capacity (high resolution respirometry) and oxidant emissions (spectrofluorometry) in isolated mitochondria. Maximal respiration was significantly lower in older compared to young. n3-PUFA did not change respiration, but significantly reduced oxidant emissions. Participants performed a single bout of resistance exercise, followed by biopsies at 15 and 18 hours post exercise. Several genes involved in muscle protein turnover were significantly altered in older adults at baseline and following exercise, yet muscle protein synthesis was similar between age groups under both conditions. Following n3-PUFA supplementation, mixed muscle, mitochondrial, and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis rates were increased in older adults before exercise. n3-PUFA increased post-exercise mitochondrial and myofibrillar protein synthesis in older adults. These results demonstrate that n3-PUFA reduce mitochondrial oxidant emissions, increase postabsorptive muscle protein synthesis, and enhance anabolic responses to exercise in older adults.

Concepts: Oxygen, Muscle, Fatty acids, Triglyceride, Unsaturated fat, Essential fatty acid, Nutrition, Metabolism


Here, we performed high-throughput drug-screening to identify new non-toxic mitochondrial inhibitors. This screening platform was specifically designed to detect compounds that selectively deplete cellular ATP levels, but have little or no toxic side effects on cell viability. Using this approach, we identified DPI (Diphenyleneiodonium chloride) as a new potential therapeutic agent. Mechanistically, DPI potently blocks mitochondrial respiration by inhibiting flavin-containing enzymes (FMN and FAD-dependent), which form part of Complex I and II. Interestingly, DPI induced a chemo-quiescence phenotype that potently inhibited the propagation of CSCs, with an IC-50 of 3.2 nano-molar. Virtually identical results were obtained using CSC markers, such as CD44 and CD24. We further validated the effects of DPI on cellular metabolism. At 10 nM, DPI inhibited oxidative mitochondrial metabolism (OXPHOS), reducing mitochondrial driven ATP production by >90%. This resulted in a purely glycolytic phenotype, with elevated L-lactate production. We show that this metabolic inflexibility could be rapidly-induced, after only 1 hour of DPI treatment. Remarkably, the mitochondrial inhibitory effects of DPI were reversible, and DPI did not induce ROS production. Cells maintained in DPI for 1 month showed little or no mitochondrial activity, but remained viable. Thus, it appears that DPI behaves as a new type of mitochondrial inhibitor, which maintains cells in a state of metabolic-quiescence or “suspended animation”.In conclusion, DPI treatment can be used to acutely confer a mitochondrial-deficient phenotype, which we show effectively depletes CSCs from the heterogeneous cancer cell population. These findings have significant therapeutic implications for potently targeting CSCs, while minimizing toxic side effects. We also discuss the possible implications of DPI for the aging process. Interestingly, previous studies in C. elegans have shown that DPI prevents the accumulation of lipofuscin (an aging-associated hallmark), during the response to oxidative stress. Our current results are consistent with data showing that flavins (FAD, FMN and/or Riboflavin) are auto-fluorescent markers of i) increased mitochondrial “power” (OXPHOS) and ii) elevated CSC activity.Finally, we believe that DPI is one of the most potent and highly selective CSC inhibitors discovered to date. Therefore, our current findings suggest a new impetus to create novel analogues of i) DPI (Diphenyleneiodonium chloride) and ii) DPI-related compounds (Diphenyliodonium chloride), using medicinal chemistry, to optimize this very promising and potent anti-CSC activity. We propose to call these new molecules “Mitoflavoscins”.For example, DPI is ~30 times more potent than Palbociclib (IC-50 = 100 nM), which is an FDA-approved CDK4/6 inhibitor, that broadly targets proliferation in any cell type, including CSCs.

Concepts: Cell, Enzyme inhibitor, Electron transport chain, Metabolism, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration, Adenosine triphosphate