Epigenetics is a promising field, and its applications may soon help increase lifespan. Read on to learn all about epigenetic research findings and their potential applications.
In this Article:
- DNA Methylation Predicts Aging
- Caloric Restriction Offers Lifespan Benefits
- Histones Regulate Lifespan
- Cellular Senescence Decrease Lifespan
- Anti-Aging Pharmacotherapy
5 Epigenetics Findings From Research That May Help Increase Lifespan
What is Epigenetics? It’s a field that focuses on the biological mechanisms that regulate gene activity.
DNA Methylation Predicts Aging
DNA methylation refers to a process where methyl groups attach themselves to DNA molecules. Depending on the DNA methylation level, it can suppress or activate gene expression.
Through research in epigenetics, scientists were able to identify DNA methylation as a marker of aging. DNA methylation patterns change throughout one’s lifespan.
As one ages, it can increase and decrease depending on the genome site. Over time, this pattern of change refers to the epigenetic drift.
In some animals with shorter lifespans, this epigenetic drift happens more quickly. For instance, the epigenetic drift is quicker among mice than monkeys.
With information about the epigenetic drift, researchers can determine an individual’s biological age. Biological age measures how well an individual’s body functions.
Unlike an individual’s chronological age, medical and lifestyle interventions can help improve biological age. So doctors can use an individual’s biological age to help optimize their healthspan.
Caloric Restriction Offers Lifespan Benefits
Caloric restriction refers to the practice of reducing caloric intake without compromising essential nutrients. In one study, epigenetic researchers show the benefits of calorie restriction on the lifespan.
Before the study, scientists already knew that calorie restriction was beneficial, but they didn’t know why. A team of researchers ran experiments to determine the effects of caloric restriction on the epigenome.
They lowered the caloric intake of young mice by 40% and middle-aged monkeys by 30%. For both animal groups, caloric restriction decreased epigenetic drift.
Slower epigenetic drift means slower aging. These findings help explain why individuals from blue zones live longer.
These individuals usually have diets that allow them to consume fewer calories. Researchers need to learn more about epigenetic drifts, but caloric restriction is a promising intervention that may help increase lifespan.
Histones Regulate Lifespan
Histones are proteins that provide structural support for chromosomes. Epigenetic researchers discovered that histone levels are linked to lifespan regulation.
Research shows that modifications in histones can change chromatin organization. This, in turn, can lead to changes in gene expression.
In some animals, overexpression of certain histones extends lifespan. For example, an oversupply of histone demethylase lid in flies extends the life span of flies.
On the other hand, knocking it down decreases their lifespan. Although the same results aren’t always seen across species.
Researchers are still working hard to determine the effects of histone modification on different species. For example, they’ve done studies with flies, worms, and mice.
In these studies, researchers can modify histones in the laboratory. They can knock out specific histones or cause an overexpression. In the future, these findings may be used for lifespan interventions.
Cellular Senescence Decrease Lifespan
Cellular senescence is a stable cellular state where cells are no longer dividing. As individuals age, they accumulate senescent cells.
Studies show that the accumulation of these types of cells harms the healthspan, contributes to age-related illnesses, and may even decrease lifespan. Fortunately, epigenetic scientists can now genetically clear senescent cells in animal models.
Some researchers use pharmacology to clear senescent cells in animals and humans. In the pharmacological approach, they target antiapoptotic networks. The clinical trials are still ongoing, but this may be able to use these applications in healthspan and lifespan interventions in the future.
The wide range of epigenetic studies rekindled interest in developing drugs that are beneficial for the lifespan. Traditionally, pharmacological applications help treat symptomatic diseases.
With the surge of epigenetic research, more scientists are interested in developing interventions where they won’t have to wait for disease onset. They want to help improve health and lifespan even before individuals get sick.
While some researchers are looking for pharmacological applications, others are revisiting existing ones. For example, researchers are now looking into metformin as an anti-aging intervention.
Metformin is a drug commonly used to help lower blood sugar levels. It helps the body process insulin.
Many doctors prescribe this drug to when patients are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Researchers are currently running experiments to find out if they can repurpose metformin as an anti-aging drug.
Preliminary results from animal studies show that metformin offers similar healthspan and lifespan benefits as caloric restriction. These findings were so promising that the US Food and Drug Administration approved a clinical trial where a team of researchers uses metformin to target aging.
These clinical trials are on-going. The researchers will gather data from 14 trial sites. They hope to involve 3,000 aging adults in the clinical trial.
The field of epigenetics has reshaped our understanding of aging. Chronological aging is inevitable, but this may not be true for your biological age. There are things you can do to slow down or prevent biological aging.
There are things you can do to optimize your healthspan and promote your lifespan. If you’re interested in learning more about this, visit the TruDiagnostic website.
Would you consider epigenetic interventions to help extend your lifespan? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.