AsianScientist (May 12, 2020) – In a study published in Nature Medicine, researchers in Japan have tapped on an international pool of biobank samples to uncover the multiple genes linked with aging.
While single genes are known to determine biological traits such as eye color and blood type, most diseases are not the result of a single mutation but multiple variations, each exerting a tiny effect that can only be understood when taken together. Instead of assessing the impact of genes one by one, a team led by Professor Yukinori Okada at Osaka University, Japan, calculated the polygenic risk score for aging based a genome-wide analysis of biobank data.
“The genetic code contains a lot of information, most of it of unknown significance to us,” Okada said. “The goal of our study was to understand how we can utilize genetic information to discover risk factors for important health outcomes that we can directly influence as health care professionals.”
To achieve their goal, the researchers analyzed genetic and clinical information of 700,000 individuals from biobanks in the UK, Finland and Japan. From these data, the researchers calculated polygenic risk scores, which are an estimate of genetic susceptibility to a biological trait.
“Biobanks are an incredible resource,” said lead author of the study Dr. Saori Sakaue. “By collaborating with large biobanks in the UK, Finland and Japan, we not only had access to large amounts of data, but also to genetically diverse populations, both of which are necessary to make clinically meaningful conclusions.”
The researchers found that high blood pressure and obesity were the two strongest risk factors that reduced lifespan of the current generation. Interestingly, while high blood pressure decreased lifespan across all populations the researchers investigated, obesity significantly reduced lifespan in individuals with European ancestry, suggesting that the Japanese population was somehow protected from the detrimental effects obesity has on lifespan.
“These are striking results that show how genetics can be used to predict health risks,” said Okada. “Our findings could offer an approach to utilize genetic information to seek out health risk factors with the goal of providing targeted lifestyle changes and medical treatment. Ultimately, these approaches would be expected to improve the health of the overall population.”
Source: Osaka University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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