Biological aging is shown through the accumulation of cellular changes, including telomere attrition and epigenetic alterations. These cellular changes, in turn, drive deterioration in tissues and organ systems, which eventually results in the outward symptoms we know as aging. Scientists believe that damage accumulation during the early development of tissues and organs can speed up the later life aging processes.
Childhood socioeconomic disadvantage poses a higher risk of later life health problems such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, or even a shorter life span. To explain this phenomenon, it is intuitive to ask whether early-life socioeconomic disadvantage could lead to the acceleration of aging in children and increase their vulnerability to subsequent health issues.
This hypothesis required further investigation and measures that could quantify the early acceleration of biological aging during childhood.
Read the original publication of this study here: [ Socioeconomic Disadvantage and the Pace of Biological Aging in Children ]
The study aimed to examine whether early-life socioeconomic disadvantage accelerates biological aging and increasing vulnerability to subsequent disease.
Socioeconomic Disadvantage and the Pace of Biological Aging in Children
The study, named Texas Twin Project, measured saliva DNA methylation and documented the socioeconomic status of 600 White- or Latinx-identifying children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years (48% female).
To measure the pace of biological aging in system integrity, researchers used the DunedinPoAm DNA methylation algorithm. They also tested if children with a disadvantaged background would exhibit a faster aging pace than those coming from more affluent families and neighborhoods.
The DunedinPoAm algorithm quantifies how fast a person is aging. In contrast, epigenetic clocks calculate the amount of aging that has already occurred up to the time of measurement. In simpler terms, epigenetic clocks tell you what time it is, whereas Dunedin Pace of Aging algorithm tells you how fast the clock is ticking – like a speedometer. Given that differences in accumulated aging in children may not be prominent, the DunedinPoAm DNA methylation algorithm was a powerful new method to examine aging acceleration during childhood. In a cohort of 18-year-olds, while several epigenetic clocks failed to record any differences, DunedinPoAm detected a faster pace of aging, even from a young age, in people who experienced childhood socioeconomic hardships.
Results showed that children who experienced socioeconomic disadvantage had a faster pace of aging. A faster PoAm value was observed in Latinx-identifying children, compared with both White- and Latinx White–identifying children. This pace was also consistent with higher levels of disadvantage in the Latinx-identifying group. Additionally, children with more advanced pubertal development, higher BMI, and more tobacco exposure exhibited a faster pace of aging.
- Children growing up under conditions of socioeconomic disadvantage exhibited a faster pace of biological aging.
- Children who experienced more advanced pubertal development, higher BMI, and more tobacco exposure had a faster pace of aging.
- The DunedinPoAm DNA methylation algorithm (DNA methylation pace of aging) might help address the role of social determinants toward lifelong health disparities.
You can read the original publication of this study here: [ Socioeconomic Disadvantage and the Pace of Biological Aging in Children ]