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DNA methylation-based measures of accelerated biological ageing and the risk of dementia in the oldest-old: a study of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921

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Abstract

Background: Previous studies have demonstrated an association between DNA methylation-based measures of accelerated ageing and age-related health outcomes and mortality. As a disease closely associated with advancing age, we hypothesized that DNA methylation-based measures of accelerated ageing might be associated with risk for dementia. This study therefore aimed to examine the association between four recognised measures of age acceleration and subsequent dementia.
Methods: Study subjects (n=488) were members of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921. Dementia case ascertainment used data from death certificates, electronic hospital records, and clinical reviews. Venous blood samples were taken at baseline, at age 79 years. DNA methylation and measures of epigenetic age were calculated in accordance with Horvath’s epigenetic clock tutorial, using the online calculator (https://dnamage.genetics.ucla.edu/). From these values, four measures of accelerated ageing were calculated: extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration (EEAA), intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration (IEAA), AgeAccelPheno and AgeAccelGrim. Competing risk regression models – with death as a competing risk – were performed to examine the association between each measure of accelerated ageing and incident dementia. APOE ɛ4 status, sex, age, smoking status, history of cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes were included as covariates.
Results: None of the multivariate models revealed a positive association between increased epigenetic age acceleration and dementia risk. Across all included models, never-smoking increased risk for dementia (HR 1.69 [1.06, 2.71], p=0.03), and having no APOE ɛ4 alleles reduced risk for dementia (HR 0.44 [0.29, 0.67], p<0.001). 
Conclusions: The present study did not demonstrate any consistent association between DNA methylation-based measures of accelerated ageing and dementia in subjects aged over 79 years. Further, larger studies – including separate analyses of dementia subtypes – are required to further investigate the potential association between DNA methylation-based measures of accelerated ageing and dementia.

    Research areas

  • dementia, DNA methylation, accelerated ageing, epigenetic age

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