Edinburgh: As people age, their bodies begin to decline after they reach adulthood, which results in age-related diseases and death. A new research investigated which proteins could influence the ageing process.
Two blood proteins have been shown by scientists to influence how long and healthy a life people live. The findings have been published in the journal ‘Nature Aging’.
Developing drugs that target these proteins could be one way of slowing the ageing process, according to the largest genetic study of ageing.
Many complex and related factors determined the rate at which people age and die, and these included genetics, lifestyle, environment and chance. Some people naturally had higher or lower levels of certain proteins because of the DNA they inherit from their parents. These protein levels could, in turn, affect a person’s health.
University of Edinburgh researchers combined the results of six large genetic studies into human ageing – each containing genetic information on hundreds of thousands of people,
Among 857 proteins studied, researchers identified two that had significant negative effects across various ageing measures.
People who inherited DNA that caused raised levels of these proteins were frailer, had poorer self-rated health and were less likely to live an exceptionally long life than those who did not.
The first protein, called apolipoprotein(a) (LPA), is made in the liver and has been thought to play a role in clotting. High levels of LPA can increase the risk of atherosclerosis – a condition in which arteries become clogged with fatty substances. Heart disease and stroke are also a possible outcome.
The second protein, vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM1), is primarily found on the surfaces of endothelial cells – a single-cell layer that lines blood vessels. This protein, controlled vessels’ expansion and retraction – and function in blood clotting and the immune response.
Levels of VCAM1 increased when the body sent signals to indicate it has detected an infection, VCAM1 then allows immune cells to cross the endothelial layer, as seen for people who have naturally low levels of these proteins.
The researchers said that drugs used to treat diseases by reducing levels of LPA and VCAM1 could have the added benefit of improving quality and length of life.
One such example is a clinical trial that is testing a drug to lower LPA as a way of reducing the risk of heart disease.
There were currently no clinical trials involving VCAM1, but studies in mice have shown how antibodies lowering this protein’s level improved cognition during old age.
Dr Paul Timmers, lead researcher at the MRC Human Genetics Unit at University of Edinburgh, said: “The identification of these two key proteins could help extend the healthy years of life. Drugs that lower these protein levels in our blood could allow the average person to live as healthy and as long as individuals who have won the genetic lottery and are born with genetically low LPA and VCAM1 levels.”
Professor Jim Wilson, Chair of Human Genetics at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “This study showcases the power of modern genetics to identify two potential targets for future drugs to extend lifespan.”