Geriatrics: Scientists determine biomarkers for better assessing health status

The susceptibility of older people to diseases can be determined by certain substances in the blood.

Basic research aiming for more individualized treatment options

The susceptibility of older people to diseases can be determined by certain substances in the blood.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing and the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) want to transfer fundamental findings from research on animal models to the causes of the aging process in humans. They have now discovered a combination of biomarkers in the blood that could help in clinical studies to assess the susceptibility of older people to diseases.

Model organisms such as worms, fruit flies or mice are usually used in basic research to investigate the molecular causes of aging. However, a number of biomarkers now identified in human blood could be also used together with clinical studies and animal-based aging research.

In blood samples from 44,168 individuals, researchers searched for biomarkers that could help predict in some way the remaining lifespan of a person. The researchers wanted to draw conclusions about the state of health and susceptibility to diseases in older people. After an extensive analysis, they identified a combination of 14 biomarkers. These are composed of various amino acids, components of  "good" and "bad" cholesterol, fatty acid and inflammation parameters. 

"The blood-based measurement is intended to be the first step towards a more individual treatment of older people," explained Pieternella Eline Slagboom, head of the study. Slagboom added: "As aging researchers, we want to determine the biological age because the calendar age does not say much about the general health condition of older humans: A 70-year-old is healthy, while another can already suffer from three diseases. But now we have a number of biomarkers we can use to identify older people under the threat of diseases, and then treat them accordingly.”