Some people’s hearts stay strong well into their 60s, but their kidneys begin to fail. Others may have the kidneys of a 30-year-old but fall victim to constant infection.
Now, scientists may be one step closer to understanding why the aging process varies so drastically between people.
Even within a single person, aging unfolds at different rates in different tissues, sometimes striking the liver before the heart or kidney, for example. People fall into distinct categories depending on which of their biological systems ages fastest, and someday, doctors could use this information to recommend specific lifestyle changes and design personalized medical treatments, according to a new study, published Jan. 13 in the journal Nature Medicine.
What’s your “ageotype”?
The research team behind the study sorted 43 people into aging categories, or “ageotypes,” based on biological samples collected over the course of two years. The samples included blood, inflammatory substances, microbes, genetic material, proteins and by-products of metabolic processes. By tracking how the samples changed over time, the team identified about 600 so-called markers of aging — values that predict the functional capacity of a tissue and essentially estimate its “biological age.”
So far, the team has identified four distinct ageotypes: Immune, kidney, liver and metabolic. Some people fit squarely in one category, but others may meet the criteria for all four, depending on how their biological systems hold up with age.