Growing old is an inevitable experience almost every one of you will have. For sure you don’t like to be old but it is something that cannot be avoided. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s predictions – nearly one out of five person in U.S. will be 65 years or older in 2030 and the elderly population of age 85 and older will be more than triple between 2008 and 2050. The “oldest old” those aged 85 and over are the most rapidly growing elderly age group.
For you age may be a number of candles you put on your birthday cake or the years you have spent since birth but researcher Norman Sharpless, MD, an associate professor of medicine and genetics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C., has a new way of measuring your age; through a blood test. This new Blood Test can measure how faster or slower you are aging irrespective of your actual age. A year ago scientists identified the p16 gene that helps in prevention of cancer. Latest research showed that the p16 has strong correlation with both chronological age and the rate at which your body’s tissues are ageing at a molecular level.
You might define aging by amount of gray hair one has or the receding hair line. Biologically, aging is accompanied by a decrease in the body’s ability to regenerate new cells. How fast we age, varies from one person to another and depends upon your genes, environmental influences, and off course your life style.
What are the key statistics about ageing population?
World health Organization (WHO) reveals that old age population is increasing dramatically in all developing countries. The facts are as follows:
- In 2000, there were 600 million people aged 60 and over; there will be 1.2 billion by 2025 and 2 billion by 2050.
- Today, about 66% of all older people are living in the developing world; by 2025, it is expected to increase to 75%.
- In the developed world, the very old 80+ age is the fastest growing population group.
- Women outlive men in virtually all societies; consequently in very old age, the ratio of women/men is 2:1.
What is p16 and how is it related with ageing?
P16 is a protein which is known as p16INK4a. The protein is present in the T-cells of immune system and causes other body cells to permanently stop dividing, which has implications in the overall aging process. A latest study shows that
- the level of P16 markedly increases as people age
text-align: justify; mso-list: l2 level1 lfo2;">Smokers have higher levels of p16 than nonsmoker
- People who exercise have lower levels of p16
What is blood test p16?
That blood test described in a new study is published in Aging Cell. It measures the level of a protein called p16 in your body and helps you to know whether you’re aging faster or slower than the amount of candles on your birthday cake.
Is p16 the sole cause of aging?
Norman Sharpless says that p16 is a very specific component of aging that decreases ability of cells to divide but not the only cause. Other mechanisms of aging are still unknown and are under investigation.
What would be the advantage to know ageing through blood test?
The new blood test is a major step forward in preventative medicine. It would be beneficial not only for the individual person but for doctors as well because:
- It will provide people a quick look into their future health and equip them with the knowledge they need to stay healthy.
- It will allow doctors to determine best possible combination and level of supplements or suggest changes to lifestyle and diet for healthy living.
- P16 being a tumor suppressor protein, can provide better understanding about the suitability of organs for transplantation, which is one of the major risks of organ transplant. It can also indicate how well patients are likely to recover after surgery or the future toxicity of chemotherapy for cancer patient.
Is P16 test is available in the market?
Sharpless says the p16 test isn’t available yet, but scientists are working to bring it to market. Furthermore, researchers are taking a deeper dive on developing other aging tests that would measure different things to determine your age.
There is no doubt that blood test study is the crucial discovery in the understanding of cellular aging and can be helpful in many ways to keep you healthy. But it is universal fact that we cannot run away from the old age and the associated problems. However we can look young and keep ourselves healthy by using green tea, antioxidant rich diet, drinking more water, exercising and less or no consumption of alcohol and smoking.
I think scientists are changing an old saying “count your age by friends not years” to count your age by p16 not years!