Scientists developed an epigenetic clock that could provide insight into accelerated ageing in the brain

According to a study, conducted by scientists from the University of Exeter, their developed epigenetic clock could provide an insight into how quickly people age and the association of this with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Leading the research team, Professor Johnathan Mill says that “the research area of epigenetic clocks is really exciting, and has the potential to help us understand the mechanisms involved in ageing.”

The research team reveals that this epigenetic clock could help to elucidate how prone people are to diseases of old age by using human brain tissue samples. Previously, these tests used blood samples or other tissues, which did not provide as accurate findings.

From analysing an epigenetic marker, which commands genes to switch on and off, the team identified 347 DNA methylation sites (in the human prefrontal cortex) that most accurately foretell ageing.

Once they developed their model, the researchers tested it on 1,221 human brain samples, donated by the Brains for Dementia Research (BDR) which is funded by the Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society.

The prefrontal cortex is a brain region involved in cognition and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Gemma Shireby, PhD student and researcher at the University of Exeter states that their “study highlights the importance of using tissue that is relevant to the mechanism you want to explore when developing epigenetic clock models.

“In this case, using brain tissue ensures the epigenetic clock is properly calibrated to investigate dementia.”

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