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Polar bear’s age revealed by its blood!


Susanna Woodruff’s stylish method for estimating the age of polar bears

Susanna Woodruff, a wildlife biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is monitoring polar bear habitats in Alaska. To estimate what number of polar bears are nearing their outdated age and what number of will enter their reproductive years, Woodruff must know their ages exactly. Till not too long ago, the one dependable strategy to decide the age of a polar bear was to take away the premolar and have a look at its progress rings, a course of generally known as tooth extraction. Woodruff and his crew have developed a wholly new technique that harnesses the epigenetic clock, which entails the evaluation of chemical tags within the polar bear’s DNA. This technique gives a extra correct estimate of a bear’s age to inside a 12 months than dental examination.

Epigenetic clock and its implications

The epigenetic clock, which was utilized by Woodruff and his colleagues, has far-reaching implications past polar bears. In a research printed within the journal Nature Rising Handed, a world crew of scientists discovered that the epigenetic clock is current in 185 totally different species of mammals, together with people. The evaluation exhibits that the epigenetic clock begins ticking quicker after fertilization and determines the lifespan of a species. Steve Horvath, head of analysis at biotech firm Altos Labs and principal investigator, emphasised the universality of the epigenetic clock formulation, noting that fully totally different species may be measured utilizing the identical mathematical formulation.

Understanding the mechanism of the epigenetic clock

To grasp the workings of the epigenetic clock, it is advisable to perceive the placement of methyl teams in DNA. Much like Christmas lights on a string, methyl cations are molecules hooked up to our DNA. When a cell divides, the DNA inside the 2 new cells often maintains the identical sample of methyl teams. Nonetheless, enzymes inside cells can take away or add methyl teams to DNA. Not solely is the aim of methylation unclear, however it’s believed to play a job in gene activation or silencing. Including methyl teams round a gene can flip it off, whereas eradicating them can flip it again on.

Pioneering Evaluation by Dr. Horvath

Dr. Steve Horvath, previously a researcher on the College of California, Los Angeles, started to investigate whether or not an organism’s age may very well be predicted primarily based solely on its methylation patterns. After feeding the pc methylation knowledge from hundreds of human cells, Dr. Horvath taught the machine to foretell folks’s ages primarily based on their DNA. In 2013, he reported that computer systems may precisely predict an individual’s age inside a number of years by analyzing solely 353 factors of their DNA. Since then, Dr. Horvath and different researchers have labored to create ever extra exact epigenetic clocks. They discovered that issues like smoking, weight problems and overeating can velocity up the epigenetic clock, leading to an elevated danger of demise.

a continuing seek for understanding

Though epigenetic clocks have confirmed to be environmentally pleasant, a lot stays to be found about their underlying mechanisms. Molecular biologists, reminiscent of Alexander de Mendoza at Queen Mary Faculty London, acknowledge the clock’s effectiveness however stay mystified by its inside workings. Dr. John Greeley, an knowledgeable in epigenetics on the Albert Einstein College of Drugs in New York, expresses skepticism in regards to the true worth of the epigenetic clock metric. Within the meantime, Dr. Horvath and his crew try to deepen their understanding of the molecular clock by learning all kinds of species.

Epigenetic clock sheds gentle on ageing course of in animals

Unprecedented evaluation has proven that the epigenetic clock can precisely predict the age of not solely polar bears, however many wild mammals. By analyzing a single epigenetic sample throughout all species, researchers may estimate the age of 185 totally different mammals utilizing fewer than 1,000 elements of their DNA. This new discovery has nice potential for precisely estimating the ages of untamed animals, in addition to unlocking the secrets and techniques of ageing in all mammals, together with people. João Pedro de Magalhães, an ageing knowledgeable at Birmingham Faculty, believes this is a vital advance that can advance our understanding of ageing in mammals.

Controversy over epigenetic clocks

Whereas early outcomes from epigenetic clocks are promising, some are skeptical about their therapeutic relevance. Corporations that provide pure age estimates primarily based on the epigenetic clock presently do not need FDA approval, elevating considerations in regards to the accuracy and worth of those assessments. Nonetheless, Tony Vice-Kore, an ageing knowledgeable at Stanford College, acknowledges the potential for epigenetic clocks to assist enhance remedies that decelerate the ageing course of.

The most effective method to epigenetic clocks and ageing

Dr. Horvath hopes that epigenetic clocks will play an vital position to find therapies that may effectively decelerate the ageing course of. Though a lot potential is being explored in animal fashions, it’s unclear whether or not cost-effective remedies can be helpful in folks. Nonetheless, protecting an ordinary mammal clock can bridge the hole between fashions for animals and folks. For instance, the epigenetic clock has already proven that an energy-restricted weight reduction plan can flip again the clock in mice, making them look youthful. Which implies that the invention of interventions that mimic caloric restriction in people can naturally decelerate ageing.


The invention of the epigenetic clock by Dr. Susanna Woodruff and her colleagues has revolutionized polar bear age estimation. Moreover, the invention that the epigenetic clock is current in 185 totally different mammals, together with people, opens up many potentialities for understanding and probably slowing down the ageing course of. Whereas there are nonetheless unknowns and doubts surrounding the epigenetic clock, it’s clear that this breakthrough in science has nice potential for future medical evaluations and options.

ceaselessly requested questions

1. How does the epigenetic clock predict the age of polar bears?

A crew of scientists led by Dr. Susanna Woodruff developed a technique that entails the evaluation of chemical tags inside the polar bear’s DNA. These labels present particulars in regards to the age of the bears, which may be estimated to be inside a 12 months of their precise age.

2. Can the epigenetic clock predict lifespan in numerous mammals?

Certainly, epigenetic clocks have been discovered to exist in 185 totally different species of mammals, together with people. By analyzing a single epigenetic sample throughout all species, researchers can estimate the ages of various wild mammals extra simply and precisely than ever earlier than.

3. What are the implications for the universality of the epigenetic clock?

The universality of the epigenetic clock formulation signifies that it may be used to measure ageing in lots of species with a number of ecologies. This discovery has vital implications for understanding the ageing course of in mammals and, after all, for growing therapies that gradual ageing.

4. Are there authorized assessments for estimating pure age utilizing the epigenetic clock?

No, proper now, there isn’t a such factor as epigenetic clock administration authorized by the Meals and Drug Administration. The accuracy and value of checks supplied by corporations on this space stays a matter of debate.

5. Can interventions reminiscent of calorie restriction decelerate the ageing of people?

Whereas calorie restriction has been proven to gradual the ageing course of in animal strategies, its applicability to people stays unsure. The epigenetic clock might assist bridge the hole between animals and folks, leading to potential interventions that mimic the results of calorie restriction.


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