Blood test can show 'biological age'

09 September 2015 09:49

A blood test could identify those at risk of developing Alzheimer's

A blood test could identify those at risk of developing Alzheimer's

A blood test has been developed that could show how quickly people are ageing - and whether they are at risk of getting dementia.

The test measures the health of key genes to determine a person's "biological age", and can provide an early warning of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Healthy ageing score

Scientists from King's College London analysed thousands of blood, brain and muscle samples to find 150 markers of gene activity associated with good health in 65-year-olds.

These were then used to create a score-based rating system for healthy ageing that can be incorporated into a blood test.

More than 700 healthy 70-year-olds who were given the test were found to have a wide range of healthy ageing scores that varied by up to four times.

Higher scores were an indication of better mental ability, kidney function and longevity over a period of 12 years, while low scores were linked to Alzheimer's.

Holidays

For the families of people with Alzheimer's, travelling abroad can be a worry.

But specialist dementia travel insurance can offer peace of mind and provide cover for medical treatment - should it be needed.

New test

Scientists believe the new test has the scope to change the way in which it is determined who receives medical procedures.

Lead researcher Professor James Timmons says most people accept that not every 60-year-old is the same, but until now there has been no reliable test for underlying biological age.

He hailed the discovery as providing the first robust molecular signature of biological age in humans.

He believes it can transform the way age is used to make medical decisions. This includes identifying those more likely to develop Alzheimer's, as catching those at risk early on is crucial to evaluating potential treatments.

RNA measured

The research, published in the journal Genome Biology, analysed gene activity by measuring levels of RNA - closely linked to DNA - in the participants' blood.

RNA acts as a messenger that carries genetic instructions to protein-making machinery in cells.

The participants' scores were found to be strongly associated with long-term health over two decades.

Individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease had an altered RNA signature in their blood and a lower healthy age score.

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