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.
Ageing is associated with attenuated autonomic function. Transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) improved autonomic function in healthy young participants. We therefore investigated the effects of a single session of tVNS (studies 1 and 2) and tVNS administered daily for two weeks (study 3) in volunteers aged ≥ 55 years. tVNS was performed using modified surface electrodes on the tragus and connected to a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine. Study 1: participants (n=14) received a single session of tVNS and sham. Study 2: all participants (n=51) underwent a single session of tVNS. Study 3: participants (n=29) received daily tVNS for two weeks. Heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity were derived. Quality of life (QoL), mood and sleep were assessed in study 3. tVNS promoted increases in measures of vagal tone and was associated with greater increases in baroreflex sensitivity than sham. Two weeks of daily tVNS improved measures of autonomic function, and some aspects of QoL, mood and sleep. Importantly, findings showed that improvements in measures of autonomic balance were more pronounced in participants with greater baseline sympathetic prevalence. This suggests it may be possible to identify individuals who are likely to encounter significant benefits from tVNS.
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.
Matcha green tea (MGT) is a natural product that is currently used as a dietary supplement and may have significant anti-cancer properties. However, the molecular mechanism(s) underpinning its potential health benefits remain largely unknown. Here, we used MCF7 cells (an ER(+) human breast cancer cell line) as a model system, to systematically dissect the effects of MGT at the cellular level, via i) metabolic phenotyping and ii) unbiased proteomics analysis. Our results indicate that MGT is indeed sufficient to inhibit the propagation of breast cancer stem cells (CSCs), with an IC-50 of ~0.2 mg/ml, in tissue culture. Interestingly, metabolic phenotyping revealed that treatment with MGT is sufficient to suppress both oxidative mitochondrial metabolism (OXPHOS) and glycolytic flux, shifting cancer cells towards a more quiescent metabolic state. Unbiased label-free proteomics analysis identified the specific mitochondrial proteins and glycolytic enzymes that were down-regulated by MGT treatment. Moreover, to discover the underlying signalling pathways involved in this metabolic shift, we subjected our proteomics data sets to bio-informatics interrogation via Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) software. Our results indicate that MGT strongly affected mTOR signalling, specifically down-regulating many components of the 40S ribosome. This raises the intriguing possibility that MGT can be used as inhibitor of mTOR, instead of chemical compounds, such as rapamycin. In addition, other key pathways were affected, including the anti-oxidant response, cell cycle regulation, as well as interleukin signalling. Our results are consistent with the idea that MGT may have significant therapeutic potential, by mediating the metabolic reprogramming of cancer cells.
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.
Natural killer cells lacking expression of CD56 (CD56neg NK cells) have been described in chronic HIV and hepatitis C virus infection. Features and functions of CD56neg NK cells in the context of latent infection with CMV and / or EBV with age are not known. In a cohort of healthy donors >60 years of age, we found that co-infection with CMV and EBV drives expansion of CD56neg NK cells. Functionally, CD56neg NK cells displayed reduced cytotoxic capacity and IFN-γ production, a feature that was enhanced with CMV / EBV co-infection. Further, the frequency of CD56neg NK cells correlated with accumulation of end-stage-differentiated T cells and a reduced CD4 / CD8 T cell ratio, reflecting an immune risk profile. CD56neg NK cells had a mature phenotype characterized by low CD57 and KIR expression and lacked characteristics of cell senescence. No changes in their activating NK cell receptor expression, and no upregulation of the negative co-stimulation receptors PD-1 or TIM-3 were observed. In all, our data identify expansion of dysfunctional CD56neg NK cells in CMV+EBV+ elderly individuals suggesting that these cells may function as shape-shifters of cellular immunity and argue for a previously unrecognized role of EBV in mediating immune risk in the elderly.
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.
We hypothesize that altered intensities of a few morphogenic pathways account for most/all the phenotypes of aging. Investigating this has revealed a novel approach to rejuvenate multiple mammalian tissues by defined pharmacology. Specifically, we pursued the simultaneous youthful in vivo calibration of two determinants: TGF-beta which activates ALK5/pSmad 2,3 and goes up with age, and oxytocin (OT) which activates MAPK and diminishes with age. The dose of Alk5 inhibitor (Alk5i) was reduced by 10-fold and the duration of treatment was shortened (to minimize overt skewing of cell-signaling pathways), yet the positive outcomes were broadened, as compared with our previous studies. Alk5i plus OT quickly and robustly enhanced neurogenesis, reduced neuro-inflammation, improved cognitive performance, and rejuvenated livers and muscle in old mice. Interestingly, the combination also diminished the numbers of cells that express the CDK inhibitor and marker of senescence p16 in vivo. Summarily, simultaneously re-normalizing two pathways that change with age in opposite ways (up vs. down) synergistically reverses multiple symptoms of aging.
Behavioral and lifestyle factors have been shown to relate to a number of health-related outcomes, yet there is a need for studies that examine their relationship to molecular aging rates. Toward this end, we use recent epigenetic biomarkers of age that have previously been shown to predict all-cause mortality, chronic conditions, and age-related functional decline. We analyze cross-sectional data from 4,173 postmenopausal female participants from the Women’s Health Initiative, as well as 402 male and female participants from the Italian cohort study, Invecchiare nel Chianti.Extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration (EEAA) exhibits significant associations with fish intake (p=0.02), moderate alcohol consumption (p=0.01), education (p=3x10(-5)), BMI (p=0.01), and blood carotenoid levels (p=1x10(-5))-an indicator of fruit and vegetable consumption, whereas intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration (IEAA) is associated with poultry intake (p=0.03) and BMI (p=0.05). Both EEAA and IEAA were also found to relate to indicators of metabolic syndrome, which appear to mediate their associations with BMI. Metformin-the first-line medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes-does not delay epigenetic aging in this observational study. Finally, longitudinal data suggests that an increase in BMI is associated with increase in both EEAA and IEAA.Overall, the epigenetic age analysis of blood confirms the conventional wisdom regarding the benefits of eating a high plant diet with lean meats, moderate alcohol consumption, physical activity, and education, as well as the health risks of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
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 . 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.