Their findings could help to avoid or slow down the emergence of age-related diseases in humans via early detection through a simple urine test.
They were part of a team led by the Germany-based Fritz Lipmann Institute’s (FLI) Leibniz Institute on Ageing and the biotech company mosaiques diagnostics, who analysed the peptides found in urine samples from more than 11,000 patients for different signs of ageing.
Humans age in two different ways. Normal ageing, also known as primary ageing, is the result of cellular processes which lead to physiological changes as people get older. This process occurs naturally without the influence of disease, and currently limits the maximum human lifespan to around 120 years. Pathologic, or secondary, ageing is caused by internal processes which shorten lifespan through disease or the side-effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.
In a new paper published in the journal Oncotarget, the researchers describe how they found differences between ‘normal’ ageing and pathologic ageing at the molecular level in the samples for the first time.
Using a process known as proteome analysis, the researchers found differences in the molecular pathways between these forms of ageing in the urinary peptidomes of 1,227 healthy and 10,333 diseased individuals between 20 and 86 years of age. The diseases thereby comprised diabetes mellitus, renal and cardiovascular diseases.
Proteome analysis is a new research method which detects changes in the body by analysing specific protein and peptide patterns – 112 common age-correlated peptides were identified. Of those, 27 peptides could be linked to primary ageing, mainly effecting collagen degradation and activation of the immune system. Another 85 peptides could be linked to secondary ageing, mainly associated with the organism’s reaction on nutrients.
Professor K. Lenhard Rudolph, Scientific Director of the FLI , said: “Our results help to further understand the molecular mechanisms underlying human ageing and may contribute to the development of therapies to improve health in the elderly and avoid age-associated diseases and malfunctions.”
The combination of proteome analysis of urinary peptidomes and early therapy may help to avoid or slow down the emergence of age-related diseases and, as a consequence, slow down secondary ageing in humans.
Professor Harald Mischak, the University of Glasgow’s Robertson Chair in Biotechnology and founder of mosaiques diagnostics, said: “Very often, diseases emerge on a molecular level. By means of proteome analyses, they can be detected early.
“Through combining proteome analysis with an early medical therapy and changes in lifestyle, the diseases detected can be treated very efficiently. This new therapy approach is much more promising than present therapies that have their beginning only when the disease already has damaged organs and tissues.”
Dr Bill Mullen, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: “The tests have already been used to provide evidence of the beneficial effects of including as little as 20 ml of olive oil in your diet each day. Reduction in the biomarker for coronary heart disease reduced after only six weeks.
“If we can demonstrate to people the improvements they can make in their health by using these tests it may help them to maintain lifestyle changes.”
The paper, titled ‘Identification of ageing-associated naturally occurring peptides in human urine’, is published in the journal Oncotarget. The study was co-funded by the European Union within the Project CodeAge.