New Gene Score May Show an Early Warning for Alzheimer's

A set of gene of genes or "gene signature" may predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease and other disease of older age years in advance, report researchers in the September 6 online issue of Genome Biology.

A set of genes or “gene signature” may predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other disease of older age years in advance, report researchers in the September 6 online issue of Genome Biology.

The researchers defined a set of genes associated with healthy aging by analyzing the RNA from muscle, skin, and brain tissue of healthy 65-year-old subjects. Using this information, they developed a signature of 150 RNA genes that were indicative of healthy aging.

“Our objective was to discover a pattern of RNA expression that could be reliably used as a biomarker for ‘health status’ in older subjects — one that differed substantially in terms of ability to stratify health, and one that was more informative than chronological age,” the authors wrote.

Using the RNA signature, the team developed a “healthy age gene score.” When they tested and compared the RNA profiles in young and older healthy individuals, they found that a higher score was associated with better health in both men and women.

In particular, patients with Alzheimer’s disease had an altered “healthy aging” RNA signature in their blood, that lead to a lower gene score. This finding suggests there is a significant association between the different RNA signature and Alzheimer’s.

“We use birth year, or chronological age, to judge everything from insurance premiums to whether you get a medical procedure or not. Most people accept that all 60 year olds are not the same, but there has been no reliable test for underlying ‘biological age,’” said senior author, James Timmons [DEGREE] of King’s College in London, in a news release. This discovery, he said, “should be able to transform the way that ‘age’ is used to make medical decisions.”

Using the healthy age gene score can help doctors identify middle-aged patients who may wish to take part in preventative clinical trials years before the disease symptoms appear.