Deep Longevity is building a digital model of aging – and its most recent publication shows that mental health is a major antiaging factor that should not be ignored in biogerontological studies.
The pace of aging research has been accelerating since the invention of aging clocks. Of course, we all age, but research has demonstrated that not only do some of us age at a faster pace than others, but we manifest the signs of growing old at an earlier age as well. Frailty, aging-related diseases, poor sight and cognitive decline are all unpleasant signs of old age, but we are learning how to predict them using aging clocks, statistical models that can flag up how soon these symptoms of aging will manifest in a person.
Longevity.Technology: The first aging clock was developed by Dr Steve Horvath in 2013 who used epigenetic data to compare the pace of aging across multiple human tissues . This study was followed by a number of research projects analysing the footprints of aging in other biodata dimensions, including gene expression, clinical blood tests, imaging and gut flora composition. These aging clocks allow researchers to inspect the root causes of aging and provide insights that can ultimately be used to create antiaging therapeutics.
As you would expect, most aging clocks operate with physical, molecular data sources such as DNA and RNA. While these molecules are the very foundation of life, aging is a complicated process involving a variety of pathways – processes too complex to grasp if replying only on low-level information. The aging process is more than a process of cellular damage accumulation – it is also a societal and psychological phenomenon.
Deep Longevity is a Hong Kong startup that aims to bring together the disparate manifestations of aging into one single narrative, creating the tools that will drive biogerontological research in the future. In 2020, Deep Longevity published the first psychological aging clock that showed that one’s perception of their own age is a significant all-cause mortality factor.
Earlier this year, the company partnered with Harvard University to publish a research piece describing an ensemble of neural networks that can help people achieve long-term mental resilience . This research project now serves as the backend behind a free online service FuturSelf.AI that provides its users with comprehensive reports on their psychological age and and well-being trajectories.
The psychological component of aging continues to intrigue Deep Longevity, and the company has just published a new paper demonstrating the interconnectedness of the physical and mental aspects of aging. In collaboration with Stanford University and the University of Hong Kong, the startup analysed data from 11,914 Chinese adults to compare how emotional states and social factors affect one’s biological age. The pace of aging detected with a novel aging clock was shown to accelerate if a person feels unhappy, lonely, or has trouble sleeping. The detrimental effect of a poor mental state exceeded that of smoking and was on par with the impact of serious lung and liver diseases .
The authors conclude that given the strong connection between psychology and the physical pace of aging, poor mental health needs to be recognised as a major driver of aging.
Alex Zhavoronkov, the founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine and a co-author of the paper, says: “This study lays the foundation for the new tools that may help reverse both the psychological and biological aging and improve well-being at the same time… Both organizations and governments would benefit from increased productivity and decreases in healthcare costs stemming from psychosocial and biological age optimization.”
READ MORE: Insilico’s Alex Zhavoronkov announces Longevity Pledge
In combination with the previously announced FuturSelf.AI, this publication aims to provide a fresh perspective on antiaging solutions for general users as well as longevity researchers; mental health applications can be used to improve one’s longevity potential and are compatible with more traditional aging clocks such as Blood Age, according to the new paper in Aging-US .
Deep Longevity is planning to continue its exploration of psychological aging and its connection to aging-related diseases; the company is analysing the user-provided data from FuturSelf.AI to prepare a follow-up publication with its academic collaborators from China and the US. The publication will feature a detailed analysis of psychological traits in the context of aging that will be used to further improve the aging clocks provided by the company.
Deepankar Nayak, the CEO of Deep Longevity, said: “FuturSelf.AI, in combination with our recent study of older Chinese adults combining Mind Age and Blood Age, positions Deep Longevity at the forefront of biogerontological research.”