Epigenetic tags point to a new generation of age-related biomarkers

Forget wrinkles or age-related blood pressure changes as effective biomarkers for aging. Investigators are zeroing in on thousands of epigenetic markers that can be used to paint a more accurate picture of how someone is aging. The discovery has broad implications for drug developers as well as practitioners responsible for caring for an aging population of baby boomers.

Epigenetic tags provide a "signature for age" that is "largely not changed by disease or ethnic background," biomarkers expert Ronald Kohanski tells The New York Times. And 71 of them stand out as likely predictors of aging.

Insights in this field are leading researchers to new predictive tests that could uncover the first stirrings of cancer--which could allow physicians to short-circuit the whole process before it becomes entrenched in a patient. And other tests may follow that could provide a range of disease indicators that could also guide treatment and prevention efforts.

But there's a catch.

The Times points out that the same tests could tell prospective employers who on their staff is likely to remain healthy for years to come and who's likely to wind up battling disease and driving up healthcare costs. This kind of information is critical, but it also has to be carefully guarded.

- here's the article from The New York Times