Identifying gender-based biomarkers to assess ageing disorders

Ageing is gradual. People do not become old or elderly at any particular age. Traditionally, age 65 has been selected as the beginning of old age, but ageing can be defined as chronologic age, biological age, psychological age and social age. Chronicle age refers to a person's age in years since birth; biological age refers to how old a person seems; psychological age includes cognitive capacity and emotional beliefs about how old a person is; and social age is based on society's expectation of a person's age group.

Societal ageing is a global issue, particularly in Asia and the ASEAN region. Age-dependent physical decline is part of chronological ageing (physical ageing), which is not surprising, but biological ageing (physiological or premature ageing) is alarming due to stressors in society.

The "tsunami of premature ageing" could have a considerable impact on healthcare and socioeconomics. It can affect financial growth, work and retirement patterns, how families function, the ability to provide sufficient resources for older adults, and the prevalence of chronic disease and disability. Ageing itself is not a disease but a significant risk factor for developing chronic diseases. Ageing patients generally suffer from multifactorial diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, sleep loss and dementia. There is an apparent gender difference in age-related physiological decline. Therefore, there is a need to identify gender-based biomarkers to detect signs of "premature ageing".

"We aim to identify gender-based biomarkers for assessing multifactorial disorders of ageing using computer-based machine learning techniques to identify genes, proteins in clinical datasets in the ASEAN population. We have state-of-the-art equipment, well-equipped laboratories, talented and capable human resource to address the issues of ageing," shared Professor Ishwar Parhar, Head of Neuroscience and Director of Brain Research Institute, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia.

Given the complexity of the ageing process, the probability that a single biomarker will ever meet an ideal criterion seems very low. Ageing leads to comorbidity or multimorbidity (the coexistence of multiple health conditions in an individual) rather than a single physical loss or just a single disorder or disease. Therefore, it is crucial to identify universal and reliable biomarkers that can be used to determine the risk of comorbidity and multimorbidity, which can then be developed into novel molecular targets for anti-ageing intervention.

An ageing population will shift the narrative of ASEAN's growth prospects because of the decline in the working-age population. "Findings from this study will form the basis to develop novel drug interventions for premature ageing. It will also provide valuable insights on the types of socio-economic policies and strategies that will reduce the risk factors contributing to the increasing rate of ageing among the population in the ASEAN region," Professor Ishwar stated.

Some preliminary work has been carried out to identify multimorbidity and comorbidity genes for this project. Professor Ishwar and his team hope to engage Monash University as the funding stakeholder and, eventually, funders external to Monash. Social ageing will have a substantial socio-economic impact and therefore is of interest to many stakeholders.