Birthweight may influence the rate of aging
According to an article published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, certain blood metabolites resulting from molecular changes before birth or in early childhood can predict health and aging rate in adult life. Researchers at King’s College London have developed a technique called metabolomic profiling which revealed a series of over 20 metabolites related to aging. It seems that some of them that are related to aging (such as bone mineral density and lung function) are associated with birthweight, which is known to be a determinant of healthy aging.
Professor Tim Spector, Head of the Department of Twin Research at King’s College London, said that researchers have long known that the birthweight of a person is a determinant of health; the fact that people who had low birthweight are more prone to age-related diseases proves this hypothesis. He added that so far the molecular mechanisms by which low birthweight is related to age-related diseases remain incompletely understood, but now the study revealed one of these mechanisms.
Scientists from the Department of Twin Research at King’s identified by metabolomic profiling several metabolites (markers left behind in the blood by various cellular processes) linked to aging and weightbirth. They have identified 22 such markers after analyzing blood samples from 6,000 twins. It seems that the concentration of these metabolites was higher in older people than in the young. One of these metabolites, called C-glyTrp, is associated with low weightbirth and with a number of age-related disease such as low bone mineral density, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and lung function. “This may help us understand how lower nutrition in the womb alters molecular pathways that result in faster ageing and a higher risk of age-related diseases fifty years later”, researchers said.
To learn more about this marker and birthweight, researchers have shown through genetic testing that the gene that dictates the level of this metabolite may be influenced by epigenetic changes. Lifestyle and environmental factors can activate or deactivate certain genes and this may influence the risk of age-related disease. Lead researcher from King’s, Ana Vlades, said that the aging process is influenced by several factors (genetic, environmental, lifestyle) and that genes influence is only part of the process. She also pointed out that the molecular changes that dictate how we age are triggered by epigenetic changes. Researchers believe that these markers could be detected in the future using simple blood tests and will provide valuable information about the aging process and possible therapies to treat age-related diseases.