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Aging is the primary risk factor for many chronic diseases in humans, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. Individuals age at different rates, however, a phenomenon observed across sexes, ethnic groups, and races. A recent study has identified a group of proteins in human plasma that predicts both chronological and biological age.

Proteins regulate key cellular pathways. The overall composition of proteins in the body changes with time, reflecting the effects of aging. Blood is the primary vehicle for most of the body’s proteins, and some studies have shown that transfusing the blood of young mice into old mice restores cognitive function to a more youthful phenotype.

The authors of this study analyzed blood samples from more than 4,300 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 95 years to quantify proteins involved in signaling, metabolism, and other physiological functions. They found that hundreds of proteins – many of which are associated with age-related diseases – changed at specific times in a person’s life, typically at the ages of 34, 60, and 78 years.

The proteins that changed varied by sex, emphasizing the importance of including more women in clinical trials. In addition, the findings highlight the dynamic nature of aging and suggest that blood may be a useful tissue for identifying proteins that alter the aging process as a means to develop disease prevention strategies and more targeted treatments.

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