What is the epigenetic clock?

Epigenetics is the study of chemical and structural changes in the genetic material that do not affect the sequence of the DNA building blocks. These changes can be caused by environmental influences and are responsible, for example, for the differences between identical twins with the same DNA sequence. The pattern of DNA methylation, a specific epigenetic mark, changes in ageing cells [Bocklandt et al. 2011]. Ageing researcher Steve Horvath has developed an algorithm to extract DNA methylation sites that can predict biological age. His epigenetic clock is based on a set of 353 DNA methylation sites that are sufficient to accurately predict biological age in different cells and tissues [Horvath 2013]. The epigenetic clock can be used to determine a person's biological age, which could soon help improve diagnosis and disease classification in medical research.

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