Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disorder whereby airways in the lungs become swollen and partly blocked which makes breathing difficult.
These are several causes for COPD such as air pollution, severe asthma and a rare genetic disorder, called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. COPD is getting worse with age and there is no cure for it, but it can be treated and managed.
Lung diseases as well as other age-related disorders are closely linked with biological aging. Biological aging is different from chronological aging which is measured by counting years from date of birth, as evidenced by the fact that we all know that people have variable life spans and “age” at different rates. How can we measure biological aging?
Epigenetic age was already demonstrated to be a measurement of biological aging and to be associated with mortality, cancer, hemostasis, frailty, and other age-associated traits and diseases.
However, till now there were no indications that COPD might be associated with epigenetic age (read more about epigenetic age here…)
Using two independent longitudinal cohort studies (with more than 1000 participants), researchers from the USA demonstrated (1) prospective associations between COPD and epigenetic aging. Particularly, they demonstrated that epigenetic age is accelerated in COPD and that it could serve as a risk factor for COPD.
This is another strong evidence associating age-related diseases and epigenetic age acceleration.
Further work is needed to functionally validate the results, establish whether modifications of epigenetic aging biomarkers can alter future disease risk, and expand associations to other ethnic groups.
The connection between age-related diseases and epigenetic age leaves no doubt about it. Although the acceleration of epigenetic age cannot serve as a marker of a certain disease, it is an indicator that something is happening in the body and which requires more attention and lifestyle changes.
One of the questions facing science is how to reverse epigenetic age, slow down the biological clock and prevent or slow down age-related disease.
Breen M, Nwanaji-Enwerem JC, Karrasch S, Flexeder C, Schulz H, Waldenberger M, Kunze S, Ollert M, Weidinger S, Colicino E, Gao X, Wang C, Shen J, et al. Accelerated epigenetic aging as a risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and decreased lung function in two prospective cohort studies. Aging (Albany NY). 2020; . https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.103784 [Epub ahead of print