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What is epigenetic age and why does it matter?

Written by: Kiara Lipschitz

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Time to read 8 min

Epigenetic age; ageing clocks; DNA methylation; ageing process; gene expression, biological age, chronological age, health optimization; epigenome; ADHD

Welcome to the fascinating world of epigenetics and its role in ageing.


This blog post delves into the epigenetic theory of ageing, a concept that has gained traction through numerous studies showing that our 'epigenetic age'— a measure of ageing based on DNA methylation patterns —can be influenced by factors such as diet, lifestyle, genetics, and disease.


We'll also explore the intriguing question: does our DNA change as we age?


Finally, we'll introduce you to different types of ageing clocks identified in scientific research. Get ready for a journey into the science of ageing, where we'll unravel the complex interactions between our genes, our choices, and the passing of time.

Epigenetic age; ageing clocks; DNA methylation; ageing process; gene expression, biological age, chronological age, health optimization; epigenome; ADHD

1. Can our behaviours and environment alter the way our genes function?

Within each cell's nucleus resides a complex library—the chromosomes. These DNA-laden structures harbour the genetic code, a blueprint passed down through generations. Yet, nestled within these chromosomes lie individual chapters known as  genes  , whose influence extends beyond mere inheritance.


Emerging research reveals a fascinating phenomenon:  experiences leave a chemical signature on genes , influencing their expression and ultimately shaping who we become. This dynamic interplay defines the epigenome, a layer of regulation beyond the static DNA sequence.


While we inherit approximately 23,000 genes, not each and every one of them is equal to the next one. The epigeneome determines which genes are picked and how dominant they are. This process is particularly influential in the developing brain, a dynamic network eagerly awaiting its narrative.


Sensory experiences trigger signals between neurons, prompting them to produce specialised proteins .


These proteins act as messengers, travelling to the gene library and attaching chemical tags that modulate gene expression.


Positive experiences, like rich learning environments, can foster the addition of beneficial tags, while negative influences, such as malnutrition or environmental toxins, can leave different marks. These tags can be temporary or permanent, altering how the brain interprets its genetic blueprint.


This phenomenon, known as epigenetic modification, highlights the profound impact of environment on gene expression.

“To see what everyone else has seen but to think what nobody else has thought”

Nessa Carey

1.2. What is the theory of epigenetic ageing


Ageing clocks have emerged as a powerful tool in predicting age-related health conditions .


These clocks, which measure our 'epigenetic age' based on patterns of DNA methylation, have been linked to a variety of factors including diet, exercise, and environmental exposures .


Research has shown that modifiable lifestyle factors can influence the global DNA methylation  landscape, thereby affecting our biological ageing process.


For instance, a balanced diet and regular exercise have been associated with a slower epigenetic age. On the flip side, chronic stress and poor diet can accelerate it.


These findings underscore the potential of lifestyle modifications in promoting healthier ageing.


1.3. Does our DNA change as we age?


While our core DNA sequence remains unaltered throughout life, the way our genes are expressed undergoes significant changes as we age.


This phenomenon, known as epigenetics, involves modifications to DNA methylation, histone acetylation, and other factors that influence gene accessibility . What this means is the following:


Imagine your DNA as a recipe book, with each gene a recipe for a specific protein. Epigenetics is like adding notes and highlights to those recipes.


These notes can tell your cells whether to cook a recipe (turn on a gene) or leave it closed (turn off a gene). As we age, these notes build up, affecting how cells use the recipes, which plays a role in why things change as we get older.


Studies have shown that age-related epigenetic changes accumulate in various tissues, which impact the functions of the cells and potentially contributes to ageing .


While these changes haven't been directly linked to changes in the DNA sequence itself, their influence on gene expression is important for understanding and potentially altering the ageing process

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1.3. Does our DNA change as we age?

While our core DNA sequence remains unaltered throughout life, the way our genes are expressed undergoes significant changes as we age.


This phenomenon, known as epigenetics, involves modifications to DNA methylation, histone acetylation, and other factors that influence gene accessibility . What this means is the following:


Imagine your DNA as a recipe book, with each gene a recipe for a specific protein. Epigenetics is like adding notes and highlights to those recipes. 


These notes can tell your cells whether to cook a recipe (turn on a gene) or leave it closed (turn off a gene). As we age, these notes build up, affecting how cells use the recipes, which plays a role in why things change as we get older.


Studies have shown that age-related epigenetic changes accumulate in various tissues, which impact the functions of the cells and potentially contributes to ageing


While these changes haven't been directly linked to changes in the DNA sequence itself, their influence on gene expression is important for understanding and potentially altering the ageing process .

1.4. Types of ageing clocks


Ageing clocks analyse various aspects of your body, like DNA or blood tests, and predict your "biological age," which can differ from your chronological age. The first clock, created in 2011, used DNA methylation (chemical changes on your DNA) to estimate chronological age. Soon after, scientists built clocks using other sources like blood tests or facial photos. Today, dozens of ageing clocks exist.They don't just measure chronological age. Some, like PhenoAge, consider how healthy you are based on clinical markers. GrimAge looks at your risk of dying. Others, like DunedinPACE, track how quickly your body ages compared to others.


These " second-generation " clocks are more complex than the first, but both types are crucial for developing treatments that slow down ageing (geroprotective) or reverse damage (senolytic). Researchers are investing heavily in this field, but progress is slow. Ageing clocks offer a faster and cheaper way to test these treatments compared to waiting for people to live longer. Even some clocks are patented for wider use and validation.

2. Why do epigenetics matter?


Epigenetic reprogramming is an intricate process where our genes interact with our environment to shape our physical traits .


This process is critical in explaining individual variations and the uniqueness of cells, tissues, or organs despite identical genetic information.


Recent studies have suggested that manipulating this process could potentially delay the onset  of age-related diseases, including various cancers, autoimmune disorders, and neurological disorders.


Furthermore, a recent study has suggested that epigenetic changes could even play a role in managing ADHD symptoms.


This opens up a new avenue of possibilities for disease management and health optimisation.


2.1. Epigenetic programming and its importance and potential


Even though cells in your body have the same DNA, they behave differently because of tiny chemical tags and switches attached to their genes. These "notes" tell the genes which parts to use and which to ignore, essentially composing a unique song for each cell type.


But these melodies aren't written in stone. Early in life, they're more flexible, adapting to your experiences and surroundings ( stress, diet, maybe even pollution ). Over time, some notes become more permanent, potentially influencing your health later on.


Understanding these "notes" holds the key to personalised health. By decoding your unique epigenetic profile, we could create strategies to optimise your health, not just treat the symptoms but the cause.

2.2. How does epigenetic reprogramming work?


Epigenetic reprogramming has the remarkable ability to adapt the epigenome in response to environmental challenges, such as maternal stress


This adaptation can make the organism more or less adaptive depending on the future challenges presented.


This dynamic nature of the epigenome allows for a level of plasticity that can be both beneficial and detrimental to the organism. 


For instance, in response to stress, the epigenome can alter gene expression to increase resilience. However, these changes can also lead to maladaptive responses, potentially increasing susceptibility to diseases. 

2.2. How does epigenetic reprogramming work?


Epigenetic reprogramming has the remarkable ability to adapt the epigenome in response to environmental challenges, such as maternal stress


This adaptation can make the organism more or less adaptive depending on the future challenges presented.


This dynamic nature of the epigenome allows for a level of plasticity that can be both beneficial and detrimental to the organism. 


For instance, in response to stress, the epigenome can alter gene expression to increase resilience. However, these changes can also lead to maladaptive responses, potentially increasing susceptibility to diseases. 

2.3. What diseases can epigenetic changes reprogram?


Epigenetic modifications, particularly methylation, have been linked to a variety of human diseases, including several types of  cancers, autoimmune disorders, and neurological disorders


Aberrant methylation patterns can lead to genetic alterations contributing to cancer progression


For instance, research has shown correlations between epigenetic modifications and disorders such as Fragile X syndrome, Huntington's, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's diseases, and schizophrenia.

2.4. Can ADHD be fixed through epigenetic changes?


Epigenetic changes, specifically DNA methylation, have been linked to ADHD symptom scores, suggesting a potential treatment avenue.


This implies that by modifying these methylation levels, we may be able to alleviate ADHD symptoms. This finding is significant as it provides a new perspective on ADHD treatment, moving away from a purely genetic view to a more dynamic, epigenetic approach.


This approach acknowledges that while genes may predispose an individual to ADHD, environmental factors and lifestyle changes can influence gene expression and potentially improve symptoms. 

3. Worried about hidden health risks?


Our advanced DNA Methylation and Epigenetic Age Test offers a revolutionary glimpse into your genetic makeup, health, and ageing process.


This cutting-edge test analyses your DNA methylation patterns using scientifically proven methods, including the Horvaths Clock methodology and GrimAge2. Based on these patterns, we unlock your epigenetic age, revealing potential health risks you might not even know about.


But it doesn't stop there! You'll also receive personalised recommendations for lifestyle modifications. Armed with this knowledge, you can:


  • Make informed choices about your health and well-being.

  • Proactively address potential health issues before they manifest.

  • Implement strategies to slow down biological ageing and optimise your longevity.


Don't wait until symptoms appear. Take control of your health today with our powerful DNA Methylation and Epigenetic Age Test.


Order yours now and unlock the secrets to a healthier, longer life! 



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