A change in mindset from treatment to prevention is required – and GlycanAge can help.
GlycanAge analyzes levels of low-grade chronic inflammation, using the data to calculate a person’s biological age, doing so by analyzing glycans on the main protein of the immune system – immunoglobulin G. Having this data can empower users to optimize their health, wellness and longevity, check lifestyle interventions are making a difference and personalize menopause management.
Longevity.Technology: There’s a lot of confusion about aging clocks – who should be using them? Is one better than another? How should I use the data? We sat down with three people from GlycanAge – Nikolina Lauc, Co-Founder and CEO, Dr Lucija Sironic, MD, Longevity Consultant and Dr Marina Kavur, PhD, Head of R&D – to discuss communication around aging clocks, how we define biological age, and how we measure and adjust it. We also discussed menopause, HRT and andropause.
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Nikolina Lauc, Lucija Sironic and Marina Kavur on…
A clear definition
There is a lack of common definitions in the field – what is metabolic age? What is biological age? There are many aging clocks around, and they are all called biological clocks or metabolic clocks – but they all measure different mechanisms, different aspects of aging. Some refer to lifespan, others to healthspan – how good your health is throughout your lifestyle. At GlycanAge we’re interested in providing a longer healthy life, and glycans are instrumental in this process because they are crucial molecules, attaching to immunoglobulin G, the most abundant antibody in the blood.
GlycanAge measures the health of your immune system – that is, the amount of chronic inflammation. This in turn provides insights into how the rest of your body is aging.
Biological age is still not something that the vast majority of clinicians are familiar with; the concept has only become more widely noticed in the last couple of years, and there is now pressure from the industry for clinicians to start looking at these age clocks as something relevant. A change in mindset from treatment to prevention is required.
Can biological age be adjusted?
GlycanAge has carried out a study on the heritability of biological age and how much we can actually change our biological age through different interventions. What the model shows is that the contribution of genetics in biological age as measured by glycans is around 40%. This means 40% of your biological age is inherited from your predecessors – this part is pretty hard to change. However, the good news is there is 20% of it that is unique environmental contribution – that is, lifestyle, the choices that you make. 20% might not seem like a lot, but in terms of a lifespan, it could mean gaining an extra 20 healthy years just through changing your lifestyle.
The remaining 40% is shared environmental conditions, and this is attributed to a combination of natural aging, epigenetics, environmental influence and so on. This component needs more than simple interventions, such as diet, but could be influenced by a combination of significant change and medical interventions. One example would be HRT – menopause affects aging, and by addressing it, we can gain more years of healthy life.
The double-sided nature of inflammation
Inflammation has been recognised very recently as one of the new hallmarks of aging. This might lead to its getting a bad reputation, but inflammation is actually a good thing – you need it to defend yourself against pathogens! However, you only need it short-term – what you don’t need is chronic inflammation, where inflammation almost becomes the normal state. Preventing this chronic inflammation while at the same time addressing the body’s capacity to trigger inflammation when needed – this needs to be a very fine balance.
HRT – high risk or huge reward?
Men and women age differently and have completely different aging curves. It appears that women are protected from aging pre-menopause, but from perimenopause onwards, the rate of aging more than doubles. Menopause is one of the main aging events in women, and often talking about longevity to women you hear concern about two things – fertility and menopause. Our study showed HRT was beneficial and reversed glycan aging in a controlled environment, but not for everyone. For some, we observed the opposite effect – acceleration of aging. Some markers we look at relate to cardiovascular events – heart attack and stroke, and we observed in our very small cohort that some of these risk markers change negatively on HRT. These risk markers are very heritable and can be reduced with some interventions. We are looking to see if there is a precision biomarker that could be used to help a clinician evaluate risk vs benefit for an individual woman.
Pause for thought for men
There was a similar placebo-controlled trial in testosterone-supressed men – half were given testosterone, and half were given testosterone with aromatase inhibitors to block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. We didn’t see the beneficial effect in the blocked participants, but in those given testosterone alone, we saw the protective beneficial effect. In many practices that administer testosterone, we see the GlycanAge go down so it can be a tool for men – but it’s not the testosterone that’s giving the beneficial effect to men, it’s the estrogen.
An interesting drug trial on mice in the Interventions Testing Program that had a type of estrogen called 17α-estradiol that extended mice longevity as much as rapamycin – but only in the male mice. That’s an interesting space in which we should be pursuing more research – potential non-feminizing estrogen alternatives for men. We’re still waiting on a larger trial of this in people and GlycanAge would love to participate and see if we have an interesting solution for longevity based on estrogen for men.