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True age gene markers identified

The condition of someone's body in relation to their "true" physical age – as distinct from the number of years they have lived – can be determined by examining certain biomarkers, researchers claim.

People tend not to age at the same rate. Some 70-year-olds are surprisingly sprightly, while other people seem to get old before their time.

Researchers found that the same holds true for the laboratory worm Caenorhabditis elegans.

Profiling the genetic make-up of 104 worms and matching the results with age-related behaviour and survival revealed a suite of genes with a major impact on aging.

By looking at the activity of these genes, it was possible to tell which worms were aging fast and which more slowly.

The scientists believe a similar process could be applied to humans, which also have age-related genes.

Dr Simon Melov, from the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, California, said: "This is the first evidence that physiological age can be predicted nonsubjectively.

"This is a first step; our results were not perfect, but we were able to predict the ages of the animals 70% of the time, which is far better than anything that has been done before."

Examining human versions of the biomarkers could help scientists carrying out trials of anti-aging medicines, the researchers said.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Buck Institute for Age Research