Everyone ages differently, but why is that? Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine in California have found that we do indeed have individual biological patterns of ageing or an ageotype. The research team behind the study published in Nature Medicine sorted 43 people into categories based on biological samples collected over the course of two years to find four different aging pathways: metabolic, immune, hepatic, and nephrotic.
The ageotype is more than a label – study’s senior author Michael Snyder said-, it can help individuals zero in on health-risk factors and find the areas in which they’re most likely to encounter problems down the line. Most importantly, our study shows that it’s possible to change the way you age for the better.
Researchers explained that having a metabolic ageotype, for example, means that people may be more prone to develop type 2 diabetes as they age, while individuals with a liver ageotype might be at greater risk for liver disease. People with an immune ageotype might be more susceptible to inflammation and immune system disorders as they grow old. Likewise, a kidney ageotype could increase a person’s risk of varying kidney conditions.
Of course, people can age slower or faster in each of these categories, and all of us are aging in all four. However, the rate is different between individuals, and an ageotype is simply the category in which a person is aging the fastest according to that person’s biomarkers. In the end, ageing is a flexible process and that there is considerable variance in the speed and ways in which people age. For some people who changed their lifestyle, particularly in terms of diet, for example, the ageotype markers even decreased for a time, which, in some cases, meant that these individuals were aging at a slower rate.
By understanding the type, or types of ageing to which a person is predisposed, it may be possible to come up with ways to delay or slow down that form of ageing, the researchers argue.
It’s like a car – Michael Snyder explained – . When your car gets older, all parts age, but some parts, such as your transmission, go out of whack first and you want to identify those and ideally repair them. If someday you find that you’re a cardiovascular ager, for example, you might make selective interventions to improve it by exercising regularly and watching your cholesterol.
The research into ageing processes is far from over, though. “We’re starting to understand how that happens with behavior, but we’ll need more participants and more measurements over time to fully flesh it out”, said Prof. Snyder.