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Measuring animal age with DNA Methylation

Posted by: Fiona McFarlane

January 10, 2018

FSP scientist, Simon Jarman and colleagues have published a review on the use of DNA methylation to measure age in wild organisms in Frontiers in Genetics.

Face and head of a man wearing a grey beanie.
FSP scientist, Dr Simon Jarman.

DNA methylation (DNAm) is a mechanism for regulating gene expression in animals and levels are known to change with age. Recent studies have used DNAm changes as a biomarker to estimate chronological age in humans and these techniques are now also being applied to domestic and wild animals.

Chronological age is the number of years that an organism has been alive. Gaining an estimate of actual age of wild animals would lead to improved monitoring of (i) population trends and status and (ii) demographic properties such as age structure and reproductive performance.

DNA methylation (DNAm) at cytosine guanine dinucleotides (CpGs) is the best studied epigenetic modification and can repress gene expression when associated with gene promoters.

In this mini-review, we summarise current knowledge of observed age-related changes of CpG DNAm in mammals, reptiles, birds and fish.

Read the full paper here.