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Urine test reveals how body has aged
March 18, 2018, 11:42 am

As people get older a substance indicating oxidative damage increases in their urine, and this new marker can be easily measured from urine samples, say researchers behind the discovery.

Besides providing a potential method to measure how much the body has aged, the new marker, which measures our biological rather than chronological age, could help predict risks of developing age-related diseases and even the likely time-frame for our death.

While everyone born in the same year has the same chronological age, the bodies of different people age at different rates. This means that, although the risk of many diseases increases with age, the link between our age in years and our health and lifespan is relatively loose. Many people enjoy long lives, relatively free of disease, while others suffer chronic illness and premature death.

Some researchers consider normal aging to be a disease, where our cells accumulate damage over time. The rate of this cellular damage can vary from person to person, and may be dictated by genetics, lifestyle and the environment we live in. This cellular damage may be a more accurate indication of our biological age than the number of years since we were born.

Finding a way to measure biological age could help to predict the risk of developing age-related disease and even death. We also need to be able to measure biological age to know whether future treatments to slow aging are effective.

One mechanism thought to underlie biological aging involves oxygen, a molecule vital to our survival. In the free-radical theory of aging, oxygen by-products produced during normal metabolism can cause oxidative damage to biomolecules in cells, such as DNA and RNA. As we age, we suffer increasing oxidative damage, and so the levels of oxidative markers increase in our body.

One such marker, with the catchy shortened name of 8-oxoGsn, results from oxidation of a crucial molecule in our cells called RNA. In previous studies in animals, researchers have found that 8-oxoGsn levels increase in urine with age. To see if this is true for humans as well, the researchers measured 8-oxoGsn in urine samples from 1,228 people aged 2-90 years old, using a rapid analysis technique called ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography.

The research team found an age-dependent increase in urinary 8-oxoGsn in participants 21 years old and older, showing urinary 8-oxoGsn as a promising new marker of aging.

Interestingly, levels of 8-oxoGsn were roughly the same between men and women, except in post-menopausal women, who showed higher levels. This may have been caused by the decrease in estrogen levels that happens during menopause, as estrogen is known to have anti-oxidant effects.

Urinary 8-oxoGsn may reflect the real condition of our bodies better than our chronological age, and may help us to predict the risk of age-related diseases," concluded the researchers.

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