In the world’s longest analysis of “extremely low birth weight” (ELBW) babies born prematurely, scientists have found that there are 4 males born weighing less than one kilogram. , 6 years older biologically in their lifetime than men of the same age who were born with normal weight.
The study, conducted by researchers at Canada’s McMaster University, published this Monday (05.17.2021) in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that accelerated aging may be influenced by the physiological stress to which the baby is subjected in the womb and, later, in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital after birth.
On the other hand, the researchers report that this difference was not detected in female babies with normal birth weight, which is consistent with previous research which have shown that premature male babies may be more sensitive to prenatal stress than premature women.
Biological age: many factors influence how quickly we age
Biological age is a measure of physical age, rather than chronological age, based on various biomarkers, a number that can change due to lifestyle and other health factors.
All the good things – like getting enough sleep and exercise, eating a balanced diet, not smoking, and maintaining strong social ties around us – can help reduce rates of biological aging.
Two nurses care for a premature baby in the neonatal intensive care unit of Lianyungang People’s Hospital in China’s Jiangsu Province.
Research with the use of an epigenetic clock
Researchers at McMaster University have followed a group of ELBW babies and their normal weight counterparts since 1977 as part of the observational study.
Using an epigenetic clock or DNA methylation clock – a biochemical test used to measure age – the researchers examined the genes of 45 men born prematurely and 47 men born with a normal weight between the ages of 30 and 35 years to compare their age biological, controlling chronic health problems and sensory deficiencies.
Epigenetic clock measurements are believed to give a good indication of a person’s biological age, and can even pinpoint disease risks in advance.
There is no fixed formula for measuring biological aging, but a number of signals in the body can be evaluated as a guide, including the length of telomeres (the caps at the end of chromosomes), which measures the number of replication cycles in a cell population. However, according to the study, this measure does not directly assess differences in gene regulation, so it has limitations.
“Prenatal exposures play an important role in aging”
“Although it is not clear why accelerated biological aging is seen in men with ELBW, this suggests that prenatal exposures play an important role in aging,” says McMaster University physician and neuroscientist Ryan Van Lieshout.
“Because of all the stress they were under both in utero and in the postnatal period, when they were getting all these life-saving measures … we’re starting to see them develop some health problems a little earlier,” said Van Lieshout. .
He notes that the study is not intended to be alarming, but rather a wake-up call for survivors of prematurity to do the things that help us age healthily, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, avoiding tobacco, and getting a good night’s sleep. .
FEW (Pediatrics, HealthDay News)