Biomarkers for Aging

We need biomarkers for aging: ways of measuring the progression of the aging process in our bodies.

Early studies on biomarkers reveal that even though effective markers can be established, using them to measure how effective an antiaging measure is, is still in the early stages of development.

Of course, this will take time, and probably more than a few 30-year studies. Until these studies have validated these “biomarkers” and measurement criteria, there will be no mainstream acceptance of anti-aging treatments.

Much of the current debate over biomarkers is in the naming convention rather than disagreement as to what constitutes a valid marker. So, whilst this debate continues, we can reasonably make fair assumptions as to what these markers are.

We must also consider that benchmarks will change. What was previously considered an effective result, such as having a 5 year impact, will no longer be acceptable, when new products and treatments are promising a 10 year impact.

But we need to start somewhere. The accepted first step to establishing biological markers to aging is still to establish scientific consensus on those factors that cause aging. As yet, there is not full consensus in the scientific community.

So firstly, let’s accept well known biomedical gerontologist, Dr Aubrey de Grey's findings that there are seven major types of damage that accrue to the passing of time. If we could fix them all, we simply wouldn’t age.

Dr De Greys list includes:

  • Cell loss - older cells harbor fewer progenitor cells, tissue-specific or adult stem cells, capable of dividing to replace damaged or lost cells.
  • Mutations in our chromosomes
  • Mitochondrial mutations
  • Excess cells of unneeded types [senescent cells, fat cells]
  • Extra-cellular cross linking [reaction between sugars in the blood stream and long lived proteins that causes, among other problems, hardening of the arteries]
  • Extra cellular junk, garbage that needs to be brought into the cell to be broken down by the cellular lysosomes
  • Junk within the cells that the lysosomes are not adapted to break down.

Other researchers have added:

  • Cell replication rate - cells stop dividing as fast as they used to; resulting in fewer immune system cells, weakening the body's defenses, few bone cells leading to decreased bone mass and ultimately osteoporosis and reduced skin cells showing as wrinkles appear.
  • Changes in cells, hormones, genes, and even behaviors
  • Shrinkage of the brain as the brain cells become smaller and reduce in volume
  • Menopause - suggests ovarian function is related to the overall aging process
  • Changes in the immune system - subsets of T cells [a type of lymphocyte or white blood cell patrol for foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses]. Changes may reflect the age-induced senescence or death of some organ or tissue important in regulating the immune system.

Secondly, effective tests must be developed for each of these seven factors. Examples of such test might include:

  • A scan of the brain and heart to measure cell loss
  • Using fat DEXA to measure body fat percentage to determine the level of excessive fat cells and the loss of lean muscle mass.
  • Blood tests to identify chromosome and mitochondrial mutations.
  • Blood tests can also me used to determine the level of Senescent cells, extra-cellular cross linking, and junk inside and outside the cells.
  • Biopsies to confirm degeneration or level of mutation of tissues in certain cases.

Thirdly, an effective measuring or scoring system such that adding up all of the results for a complete body of tests could produce a “biological age”.

One can only imagine how complex the weighting of each of these factors could be in agreeing a “simple age index”

Such tests must :

  1. Predict a person's physiological, cognitive, and physical function and the future onset of age-related conditions and diseases, and do so independent of chronological age.
  2. Be able to be tested repeatedly without harming the person.

  3. Work in laboratory animals as well as humans. This is so that it can be tested in lab animals before being validated in humans.
  4. Be simple and inexpensive to use.
  5. Cause little or no pain and stress.
  6. Measure aging accurately.

Changes With Aging

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