Biological ageing – the rate at which our bodies decline over time – varies between people and drives the world’s most fatal diseases, including heart disease, dementia and cancers. Genes linked to ageing that could help explain why some people age at different rates to others have now been identified by scientists in Edinburgh and Cologne. An international study using genetic data from more than a million people suggests that maintaining healthy levels of iron in the blood could hold a key to ageing better and living longer. The findings could accelerate the development of drugs to reduce age-related diseases, extend healthy years of life and increase the chances of living to old-age free of disease. The findings are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Dr Joris Deelen, Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, and scientists from the University of Edinburgh combined three prior studies that focus on measures linked to biological ageing: lifespan, years of life lived free of disease (health span), and being extremely long-lived (longevity). With different methods the scientists identified genes linked to iron that were overrepresented in people with lifespan, health span and longevity.
Joris Deelen says: “Our ultimate aim is to discover how ageing is regulated and find ways to increase health during ageing. The regions of the genome we have discovered that are linked to parental lifespan, healthspan and longevity are all exciting candidates for further functional studies.”
Dr Paul Timmers from the Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh and first author on the paper continues: ”We are very excited by these findings as they strongly suggest that high levels of iron in the blood reduces our healthy years of life, and keeping these levels in check could prevent age-related damage. We speculate that our findings on iron metabolism might also start to explain why very high levels of iron-rich red meat in the diet has been linked to age-related conditions such as heart disease.“
See full press release from the University of Edinburgh.
Learn more about the research in the Deelen Research Group here.