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Study that was published in the journal Molecular Cell.
A study that was published in the journal Molecular Cell, showed that Biologist Trey Ideker and his team at the University of California, San Diego discovered rapid aging in HIV patients. They found out that these patients were susceptible to age-related diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia five years earlier than their non-infected peers. It is not clear whether it is anti-retroviral drug treatments or if it is the virus itself that causes this.

So what is one’s biological age, and how is it different from the chronological kind?
Biological age is how the bodily tissues, systems, and organs grow older. To put it in another way, it is how healthy a person is and how close or far away our organs are from age-related conditions. So, one’s biological age is a far better indicator of how healthy you are than age in years. This can be usually determined by looking at a person’s genetic code. Now, there can be dramatic discrepancies, like one being a full decade older or younger biologically than they are chronologically. Geneticists look at telomeres.

What are telomeres?
Telomeres determine how long cells live and when they die. These telomeres reside at the ends of chromosomes and they are responsible for protecting the ends from fusion with other chromosomes including deterioration. So, a telomere’s length actually helps determine when a cell meets its end. A bead falls off the end of a chromosome every time a cell divides. Simply said, the longer one lives in years, the shorter the length of their telomeres. People with telomerase mutations are more likely to die early. Evidence suggest that leading a healthy lifestyle may help to maintain the length of telomeres.

Now let’s talk about DNA methylation
Methylation are labels that tell cells whether they should lock genes in the ON or OFF position. Methylation aids in the process of cell differentiation, and this is why a heart cell and brain cell can be coded the same, but they function differently.

What was the idea of UCLA geneticist Steve Horvath’s study?
Geneticist Steve Horvath decided he wanted to see if methylation could predict a person’s age using tissue and cell samples. The idea was to determine one’s biological age and in that, their susceptibility to age-related diseases. He took 8,000 samples from 51 different kinds of cells and tissues. Soon, Horvath discovered that one’s chronological age was often very different from their biological one.

The ‘bad news’ for women!
As we have heard time and again, that ‘breast cancer’ is on the rise. Breast tissue is known to be one of the most mature parts of the human body. And the sad part is that a woman’s breasts can actually be up to three years older than the rest of her. Can you believe this? If cancer tissue is present, the adjacent healthy breast tissue will be about 12 years older than a woman’s chronological age, or more – that’s shocking!!!

Brain cancer samples.
In another experiment, Horvath took tissue samples from childhood cancer patients. Some brain cancer samples were found to have a biological age of 80 years.

And now for some good news!
Human heart tissue was found to be younger than many other parts in the body. Stem cells are often recruited to help create new cardiac muscle. Now, that’s really something good to hear, isn’t it?

Hopefully these studies could undo aging.
Hopefully with these studies, researchers can discover new therapies to treat age-related diseases, and might even find a way to undo aging itself! According to Horvath, “The big question is whether the biological clock controls a process that leads to aging. If so, the clock will become an important biomarker for studying new therapeutic approaches to keeping us young.”
Hopefully, this study brings out something positive, and we could all stay young, healthy and live longer!

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