Live Longer and Live Better

Advancements in Anti-Aging Diagnostics

by Ronald Klatz, MD, DO, & Robert Goldman, MD, PhD, DO, FAASP World Health Network
via Townsend Letter

A health-care model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy human lifespan, anti-aging medicine is a clinical specialty founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of aging-related diseases, dysfunctions, and disorders.

In this column, we review some of the most promising anti-aging diagnostics technologies, which hold great promise in promoting early detection and prevention.

Skin Test Can Evaluate a Healthful or Unhealthful Lifestyle

The University of Berlin (Germany) has developed a unique measuring method that permits medical personnel, within minutes, to say whether a person's lifestyle is healthful or unhealthful. The concentration of so-called antioxidants in the body is a central factor. This process is now being tested with the support of the Competence Networks for optical Technologies, in a pilot study with 50 students, aiming to investigate whether young people will change their lifestyles and eating habits, if the consequences of unhealthful diets or the effects of the last party with alcohol and nicotine are made directly visible to them.

Skin test can prove unhealthy lifestyle: Charite develops new procedure for dietary and nutritional control [online press release]. University of Berlin. detail/hauttest_kann_ungesunden_lebensstil_nachweisen; (One link, two lines) accessed 6 October 2011.

Saliva Reveals Biological Age

UCLA scientists have developed a test that uses saliva to reveal how old you are. Eric Vilain and colleagues assessed the process of methylation, a chemical modification of one of the four building blocks that make up our DNA. Using saliva samples contributed by 34 pairs of identical male twins between ages 21 and 55 years, the researchers scoured the men's genomes and identified 88 sites on the DNA that strongly correlated methylation to age. They replicated their findings in a general population of 31 men and 29 women between ages 18 and 70.

aNext, the scientists built a predictive model using two of the three genes with the strongest age-related linkage to methylation. When they plugged in the data from the twins' and the other group's saliva samples, they were able to correctly predict a person's age within five years – an unprecedented level of accuracy. Submitting, "In forensic science, such a model could estimate the age of a person, based on a biological sample alone," the researchers encourage: "Furthermore, a measurement of relevant sites in the genome could be a tool in routine medical screening to predict the risk of age-related diseases and to tailor interventions based on the epigenetic [biological] age instead of the chronological age."

Bocklandt S, Lin W, Sehl ME, et al. Epigenetic predictor of age. PLoS ONE. 22 Jun 2011.

MRI May Predict Alzheimer's Risk

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers may be able to predict which adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are more likely to progress to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Individuals with MCI develop the disease at a rate of 15% to 20% per year, significantly higher than the 1% to 2% rate for the general population. Some people with MCI remain stable, while others gradually decline and some quickly deteriorate.

Linda K. McEvoy and colleagues from the University of California/San Diego School of Medicine (UCSD; California, US) analyzed MRI exams from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), which performed imaging and other tests on hundreds of healthy individuals and others with MCI and early AD between 2005 and 2010 in hopes of identifying valuable biomarkers of the disease process. Included in the study were a baseline MRI exam, serving as an initial point of measurement, and a second MRI performed a year later on 203 healthy adults, 317 patients with MCI, and 164 patients with late-onset AD. The average age of the study participants was 75.

Using MRI, the researchers measured the thickness of the cerebral cortex – the outermost layer of the cerebral hemispheres of the brain that plays a key role in memory, attention, thought, and language – and observed the pattern of thinning to compute a risk score. One characteristic of AD is a loss of brain cells, called atrophy, in specific areas of the cortex. Using the baseline MRI, the researchers calculated that the patients with MCI had a one-year risk of conversion to AD ranging from 3% to 40%. "Compared to estimating a patient's risk of conversion based on a clinical diagnosis only, MRI provides substantially more informative, patient-specific risk estimates," observe the researchers.

McEvoy LK, Holland D, Hagler DJ Jr, Fennema-Notestine C, Brewer JB, Dale AM, for the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Mild cognitive impairment: baseline and longitudinal structural MR imaging measures improve predictive prognosis. Radiology. April 6, 2011.

Inherited Alzheimer's Detectable 20 Years Before Symptoms Emerge

Inherited forms of AD may be detectable as many as 20 years before problems with memory and thinking develop. Indeed, identifying AD in its earliest stages is a top priority for researchers. Many scientists suspect that by the time symptoms become apparent, AD has already damaged the brain extensively, making it difficult or impossible to restore memory and other mental abilities. Randall Bateman and colleagues from Washington University School of Medicine (Missouri, US) involved in Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Network (DIAN), an international study of inherited forms of AD, report that inherited forms of Alzheimer's may be detectable as many as 20 years before problems with memory and thinking develop. Initial DIAN results confirm and expand upon earlier insights from studies of the more common sporadic forms of AD, including data suggesting that changes in the levels of biological markers in the spinal fluid can be detected years before dementia.

DIAN researchers are studying members of families who have mutations in one of three genes: amyloid precursor protein, presenilin 1, or presenilin 2. Participants with these mutations are certain to develop AD early, with symptoms beginning in their 50s, 40s, or, in some rare cases, 30s. With 184 participants enrolled, the data produced has enabled initial comparisons among participants who carry a genetic mutation for AD but are still asymptomatic, those who have a mutation and have AD symptoms, and those who do not have a mutation and thus are unaffected. By looking at the age of symptom onset in a parent who passed an AD mutation to a DIAN participant, scientists can establish an estimated age of onset for a study participant.

If a parent developed dementia at the age of 50, they would expect a child who inherited the mutation to develop dementia at roughly the same age. As a result, scientists can start amassing a detailed chronology of disease progression that covers the many years AD is active in the brain but still before the onset of dementia.

Bateman R et al. Presented at Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC), July 20, 2011.

Innovative Breath Test Diagnoses Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Low levels of vitamin B12 have been associated with fatigue, clinical depression, memory loss, pernicious anemia, and AD. A new breath test for the diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency may allow for a cheaper, faster, and more accurate diagnosis. A University of Florida (US) team has developed a simple, noninvasive, low-cost breath test that can more accurately measure vitamin B12 status, as compared with the more common diagnostic test of serum B12 levels.

Wagner DA, Schatz R, Coston R, Curington C, Bolt D, Toskes PP. A new 13C breath test to detect vitamin B12 deficiency: a prevalent and poorly diagnosed health problem. J Breath Res. June 23, 2011.

To learn of the latest anti-aging diagnostics technologies that may help with the early detection and prevention of aging-related diseases, dysfunctions, disorders, visit the World Health Network, the official educational website of the A4M and your one-stop resource for authoritative anti-aging information. Be sure to sign up for the free Longevity Magazine e-journal, the A4M's award-winning weekly health newsletter featuring wellness, prevention, and biotech advancements in longevity.

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