How’s your epigenetic clock ticking? If you’re not sure or haven’t heard of it, it’s the measurement and prediction of your biological age. For the first time, researchers believe they’ve found and tested a hormone combination that can turn its wheels back. Yes, they’re attempting to reverse aging in the human body.
If this sounds too good to be true, stay tuned. While more research needs to take place, this is an incredibly promising and interesting study, with a lot of potential in anti-aging medicine.
What’s more, many lifestyle factors contribute to changes in your epigenetic clock. Make sure yours is ticking correctly for your healthiest aging. Here’s what you need to know about this study and your lifestyle.
What makes up your epigenetic clock?
Put simply, it’s an assessment or time prediction of your epigenome. Your epigenome is the compilation of chemical modifications your body makes to your DNA in your cells as you live. The modifications “tag” the DNA with a methyl group, for example, and scientists are able to see these tags to predict your biological age (1).
Some of the modifications to the DNA genome are caused by environmental exposures or illness. Some are inherited. Once the DNA is tagged, the methyl groups that are attached turn genes on or off.
Another type of chemical modification is called histone modification. It affects DNA indirectly by wrapping the DNA in cells around histone proteins and attaching chemical tags. Based on the tags, parts of the DNA are used or ignored (2).
Scientists can compare your biological age, based on these tags, to your actual chronological age. They can surmise how well your body functions for how old you are. Some people function better, or younger. Others, older.
In addition, your epigenetic clock can tell scientists more about your mortality risk, and the lifestyle factors contributing to your biological age. You may be accelerating it. You may be able to slow down.
While studying the epigenome, scientists have identified several key DNA sites in the body that best represent DNA-methyl tags and biological age. This current study centered around the thymus gland.
The thymus gland is crucial for effective immune function. It lies between the lungs and breastbone in the chest. After white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, they are sent to the thymus to mature and specialize.
Unfortunately, the thymus begins to deteriorate after puberty and becomes clogged with fat as we age. These researchers were determining if they could turn the hands of time back in the thymus itself.
In the scientific community, it’s been long known that growth hormones stimulate regeneration in the thymus. But there’s a downside to growth hormones. They can also promote altered blood sugars. So, in addition to growth hormone, the researchers used 2 anti-diabetes medications, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and metformin.
For one entire year, 9 healthy participants took a combination of growth hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and metformin each day. Their biological age was assessed at the beginning, throughout the study, the end, and 6 months thereafter.
After completion of the year-long trial, the participants reduced their biological ages by 2.5 years. Their immune systems specifically showed signs of rejuvenation, or reverse aging.
Maybe the most exciting point is that the rejuvenation of the thymus gained momentum towards the end of the study. From 0-9 months of the study, the rate of age reversal relative to chronological age was assessed at -1.6 years per year. The rate at the end of the study, from 9-12 months, was -6.5 years per year. What’s more, the effects persisted for 6 months after the discontinuation of the medications.
This means that not only did normal aging of the thymus halt, but it actually reversed (3).
Most scientists are surprised. Based on previous studies, they thought intervention could likely stop aging at DNA-methyl sites, but not reverse it.
According to the researchers, this was the first report of an increase, based on an epigenetic age estimator, in predicted human lifespan by an accessible intervention (4).
Now, other researchers are testing the individual medications used alongside growth hormone, to see if they are contributing separately to anti-aging mechanisms. They are optimistic that rejuvenating the thymus could offer help to those with struggling immune systems, including the elderly, those with illnesses that attack immune function, and more.
Looking forward, this opens the door to other DNA-methylation sites and biological age reversal of the epigenome.
In addition to hormones and medications, many lifestyle factors affect epigenome patterns. You likely already know the ones:
This means there’s good news, and there’s bad news.
First, the bad: What you do matters for your aging and health, even at the cellular DNA level.
The good news: You can make a difference in your aging and health by choosing healthy lifestyle habits. Start with these:
Also, consider starting Dr. Colbert’s 21 Day Detox and Fast. It’s free and can jump-start your new healthy lifestyle by first detoxing your body from toxins and harmful substances that accumulate in cells.
While this study was the first of its kind, there will likely be many more to come. Rejuvenation of the epigenome could potentially change the way people age, fight disease and continue youthful lifestyles into advanced years. This could be the first of many to show reverse aging.
Time will tell.