Melbourne Functional Medicine logo

New study finds evidence for human retinal ageing clock

Feb 11, 2023

A study investigated the association between retinal ageing and genetic factors. Researchers used fundus imaging to measure changes in the retina over time in a large group of people.

They found that the rate of change in the retina was associated with age and could be used to create a “retinal ageing clock.”

Genome-wide association analysis identified 12 genes associated with the rate of retinal ageing. These genes are involved in cell growth, cell death, and inflammation. The identification of these genes could lead to new treatments for age-related diseases.

The study also found that a healthy lifestyle may slow retinal ageing.

Genes linked to retinal ageing identified

Here are our key takeaways from the study, Longitudinal fundus imaging and its genome-wide association analysis provide evidence for a human retinal aging clock.

Fundus imaging used to measure retinal ageing

 

Researchers used fundus imaging to measure changes in the retina over time in a large group of people. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It contains millions of light-sensitive cells called photoreceptors. These cells convert light into electrical signals that are sent to the brain, where they are interpreted as images.

The researchers used fundus imaging to take pictures of the retinas of 2,000 people. They then measured the size and shape of blood vessels in the retina, the amount of pigment in the retina, and the presence of any damage. They found that the rate of change in the retina was associated with age. People who were older had a faster rate of change in their retinas than people who were younger.

Researchers identify genes linked to retinal ageing

 

The researchers then used genome-wide association analysis to identify genes that are associated with the rate of retinal ageing. Genome-wide association analysis is a method that can be used to identify genes that are associated with a particular trait. The researchers looked for genes that were more common in people with a faster rate of retinal ageing than in people with a slower rate of retinal ageing. They identified 12 genes that were associated with the rate of retinal ageing. These genes are involved in a variety of processes, including cell growth, cell death, and inflammation.

Identification of retinal ageing genes could lead to new treatments

 

The identification of genes that are associated with retinal ageing could lead to new treatments for age-related diseases. For example, if a gene is found to be involved in the development of age-related macular degeneration, then scientists could develop drugs that target that gene to slow down or prevent the disease.

Healthy lifestyles may slow retinal ageing

 

The researchers also found that the rate of retinal ageing was slower in people who had a healthy lifestyle. This suggests that lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, and smoking, may also play a role in the ageing process.

 

Reference: Sara Ahadi, Kenneth A Wilson, Boris Babenko, Cory Y McLean, Drew Bryant, Orion Pritchard, Ajay Kumar, Enrique M Carrera, Ricardo Lamy, Jay M Stewart, Avinash Varadarajan, Marc Berndl, Pankaj Kapahi, Ali Bashir (2023) Longitudinal fundus imaging and its genome-wide association analysis provide evidence for a human retinal aging clock eLife 12:e82364. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.82364