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New Aging Clock DunedinPACE Measures the Pace of Aging

6 December 2022
Giulio Prisco

Biological Aging Clock

Researchers at Columbia University and other institutions have developed a new blood test to measure the pace of biological aging. It is based on an analysis of chemical tags on the DNA contained in white blood cells, called DNA methylation marks. The test is a new addition to a fast-growing list of DNA methylation tests designed to measure aging - or aging clocks. The new aging clock is called DunedinPACE (Pace of Aging Computed from the Epigenome).

Aging clocks, or epigenetic clocks, are biomarkers based on DNA methylation that track aging. Intended to measure biological age, aging clocks predict age-related health issues. See our previous posts on aging clocks.

“What makes DunedinPACE unique is that, whereas other tests aim to measure how old or young a person is, DunedinPACE measures whether you are aging quickly or slowly,” said research leader Daniel Belsky in a press release issued by Columbia University.

A study published in e-Life reports that DunedinPACE is correlated with measures of biological age derived from blood chemistry and DNA methylation data, and with research participants' subjective perceptions of their own health. It also indicated a faster pace of aging in young adults with histories of exposure to poverty and victimization.

The study used data collected from the participants in the Dunedin Study, when they were all aged 26, 32, 38, and 45 years. In addition to the Dunedin Study, the researchers also used data from the Understanding Society Study, the Normative Aging Study, the Framingham Heart Study, and the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study.

“Whereas other measures of aging are designed to capture all aging-related change accumulated across the life course, our measure is focused on changes occurring over the recent past,” added Belsky. “What is striking is that, even with this more restricted focus, DunedinPACE is equally precise as the best of the currently available tests in predicting disease, disability, and mortality in the future, and it adds value to risk assessments over and above these measures.”

The researchers are persuaded that DunedinPACE is an effective single-time-point measure that quantifies pace of aging with whole blood samples. It can be readily implemented in most DNA methylation datasets, making it immediately available for testing in a wide range of existing datasets as a complement to existing methylation measures of aging.

“DunedinPACE represents a novel measure of aging that can complement existing DNA methylation measures of aging to help advance the frontiers of geroscience,” concluded Belsky. “Together, these measurements can help us understand the factors that drive accelerated aging in at-risk populations and identify interventions that can slow aging to build aging health equity.”

The e-Life editor’s evaluation notes that DunedinPACE can be used to complement existing DNA methylation-based biomarkers, such as GrimAge (see our coverage of GrimAge).

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