urine test as aging biomarker

Predicting our body’s biological age with a urine test

Summary:  Aging biomarkers found in a simple urine test can potentially measure how much our body has aged and could predict our future health. [This article has been updated and first appeared on LongevityFacts under the title ‘Predicting our body’s biological age with a pee test.’ Author: Brady Hartman. ]

Determining our biological age and future risk of ill health may be as simple as a urine test one day.

In a new study, a team of researchers led by Jian-Ping Cai in the MOH Key Laboratory of Geriatrics at Beijing Hospital discovered two new aging biomarkers in urine that come from the oxidation of RNA and DNA. The new markers could potentially help predict our risk of developing an age-related disease, and even our risk of death.

The most accurate compound the team found is a urine component called 8-oxoGuo, which arises from RNA oxidization, as Cai says

“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,”

Aging Biomarkers

Aging biomarkers measure how much an individual has aged biologically, as opposed to their chronological age.  Moreover, these biomarkers predict an individual’s odds of ill health and mortality better than their calendar age. While scientists have invented several of these aging biomarkers, none of them are accurate enough for life extension researchers, which represents a significant problem for developing anti-aging drugs. Scientists have been trying to devise a better way to quantify biological aging for years because the only alternative is enormously expensive decades-long studies that measure actual lifespan extension.

New Aging Biomarkers Discovered in Urine

A compound called 8-oxodGuo is a formed by the oxidization of DNA and researchers have long known that this molecule increases in both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA with aging. Cai’s team wanted to know if the same applied to a component of urine called 8-oxoGuo, which arises from RNA oxidization. The team set up an experiment to see how well these two oxidizers measured biological age and enrolled 1228 healthy Chinese volunteers in a wide range of ages.

The team found that both molecules in the urine of the participants increased in line with the chronological age of the person. However, the RNA oxidizer tracked age much more accurately than the DNA oxidizer. The researchers published their results in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

Interestingly, the team found that RNA oxidizer levels in post-menopausal women were much higher than those in men of the same age. This result might reflect the decrease in estrogen levels typically found in older women because estrogen is a powerful antioxidant.

While preliminary, the team’s results establish a correlation between levels of the RNA oxidizer 8-oxoGuo and age, as Cai says.

Searching for Aging Biomarkers

Biomarkers of aging are essential to the development of life-extending drugs because the only alternative is enormously expensive decades-long studies that measure actual lifespan extension. As such, the search for accurate biomarkers of aging is a critical goal of researchers in the geroscience field. Accurate biomarkers of aging would enable scientists to test anti-aging drugs over a period of years rather than a human lifetime.

Longevity scientists have developed six types of aging clocks, including the epigenetic clock, various standard blood-based tests, telomere length, transcriptomic aging clocks, frailty indices, and composite biomarker predictors. All of these rely on number-crunching using big data analysis to predict an individual’s biological age.

The Horvath epigenetic clock measures the rate of aging in the epigenome and is one of the more accurate among these aging biomarkers. However, it is cumbersome and expensive to measure like it’s peers. A good aging clock should be accurate while being easy to measure. This criterion is especially relevant for aging biomarkers used to measure the effect of a potential life-extension drug. While Cai’s results are preliminary and need to be confirmed, they could be used as part of a future aging clock.

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Cover Photo: Mari Lezhava 26 / Unsplash / CC0.

“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.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience via MedicalXpress. February 27, 2018. Link to the press release in MedicalXpress.

Wei Gan et al. “Urinary 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanosine as a Potential Biomarker of Aging.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Vol 10, Page 34. ISSN=1663-4365. 27 February 2018. Link to article.


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