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Genetic test could show how quickly you’ll age

A genetic test for how quickly a person will age over the course of a lifetime may soon be possible, following a study that has for the first time identified DNA variations in the population that can be linked with biological ageing.

Scientists found that people who inherit two copies of a particular DNA variant — about 7 per cent of the population — show the biological signs of being about eight years “older” than people of the same age who carry neither genetic variant.

The findings could lead to more sophisticated ways of determining the likely chances of a person ageing significantly more quickly than the average, and therefore being more prone to age-related illnesses such as coronary heart disease and senile dementia.

The study supports the idea that ageing is based not just on straight-forward chronology and environmental factors (such as smoking or heavy drinking) but on biology as well — some people are born with a genetic pre-disposition to age more quickly.

It could explain why some people look older than their contemporaries of the same age.

Individuals who have inherited just one copy of the genetic variation — about a third of the population — are on average about four years “older” than their contemporaries, as revealed by analysing the individual's chromosomes for a recognised sign of biological ageing.

“The motivation behind this study was the evidence from coronary research showing that some people who are in their 80s have completely normal arteries but others in their 40s, with no obvious risk factors, have diseased arteries. The difference seems to be biological,” said Nilesh Samani, professor of cardiology at Leicester University. “There is accumulating evidence that the risk of age-associated diseases, including heart disease and some types of cancers, is more closely related to biological rather than chronological age.”

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