US researchers have explained why people age differently by highlighting four main ‘ageotypes’: biological pathways for ageing.

The team at California’s Stanford University assessed 43 healthy participants aged 34-68 for molecular biology markers at least five times over two years. Lead author Professor Michael Snyder explained: ‘We already know there are a handful of nice molecular and clinical markers, such as high cholesterol, that are more common in older populations.

‘But we want to know more about ageing than can be learned from population averages. What happens to an individual as they age? No one has ever looked at the same person in detail over time.’ The study, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, identified four different biological pathways characterising four main types of ageing. Professor Snyder noted: ‘We’re able to see clear patterns of how individuals experience ageing on a molecular level, and there’s quite a bit of difference.’

The researchers argue that ‘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’, noted The study highlighted four different ‘ageotypes’ (ageing pathways):

  • Metabolic – relating to the buildup and breakdown of substances in the body;
  • Immune – relating to immune responses;
  • Hepatic – relating to liver function;
  • Nephrotic – relating to kidney function.

People with a predisposition to metabolic ageing may have a higher risk of developing conditions such as diabetes. Professor Snyder commented: ‘The ageotype is more than a label; it can help individuals zero in on health-risk factors and find areas in which they’re most likely to encounter problems down the line. Most importantly, our study shows it’s possible to change the way you age for the better.’

Among several results, the study compared ageing profiles of healthy individuals who were insulin sensitive with those of insulin resistant individuals (whose bodies were unable to process blood sugar effectively) and found ‘there were about 10 molecules that significantly differed’ between these groups as they aged. Of those molecules, many played a role in functioning of the immune system.

The study also found that over two years, not everyone showed a change in ageotype markers – and for some people who changed lifestyle (particularly in terms of diet) the ageotype markers decreased for a time ‘which, in some cases, meant these individuals were ageing at a slower rate’. AMP

For more information visit the Stanford University website.