Changes in blood proteins indicate aging trajectories

2018

Challenge

Older age is a powerful shared risk factor for many chronic diseases. Identifying biomarkers of aging can help uncover the intrinsic biological mechanisms of aging and may contribute to the development of interventions to slow the aging process. Blood proteins are ideal candidates for biomarker discovery as they represent functional molecules in the body and can be easily measured in a clinical setting.

Advance

IRP researchers led by Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D., sought to identify age-associated proteins in the blood of 240 healthy men and women aged 22-93 years. A total of 217 proteins were found to be associated with age, with a molecule called growth/differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) as the most strongly correlated. GDF-15 was found to be associated with aging characteristics including inflammatory markers and concentrations of fat molecules called lipids. Interestingly, chronological age was predicted with high precision using data from a subset of 76 proteins, indicating that age-related molecular change is reflected in the blood.

Impact

The ability to predict chronological age from proteins in the blood suggests there are measurable and predictable changes in these molecules with age. Consequently, deviations from these changes could be used to assess the rate of aging. This finding indicates that proteins in the blood may be useful for identifying individuals who may be deviating from normal aging trajectories and may benefit from early intervention.  

Publications

Tanaka T, Biancotto A, Moaddel R, Moore Z, Gonzalez-Freire M, Aon A, Ferrucci L. (2018). Plasma proteomic signature of age in healthy humans. Aging Cell. 17(5), E12799.