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Age (Dordr). 2011 Mar;33(1):49-62. doi: 10.1007/s11357-010-9159-3. Epub 2010 Jul 2.

How pleiotropic genetics of the musculoskeletal system can inform genomics and phenomics of aging.

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Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, Harvard Medical School, 1200 Centre Street, Boston, MA 02131, USA.


Genetic study can provide insight into the biologic mechanisms underlying inter-individual differences in susceptibility to (or resistance to) organisms' aging. Recent advances in molecular genetics and genetic epidemiology provide the necessary tools to perform a study of the genetic sources of biological aging. However, to be successful, the genetic study of a complex condition requires a heritable phenotype to be developed and validated. Genome-wide association studies offer an unbiased approach to identify new candidate genes for human diseases. It is hypothesized that convergent results from multiple aging-related traits will point out the genes responsible for the general aging of the organism. This perspective focuses on the musculoskeletal aging as an example of an approach to identify a downstream common pathway that summarizes aging processes. Since the musculoskeletal traits are linked to the state of many vital functions, disability, and ultimately survival rates, we postulate that there is significance in studying musculoskeletal aging. Construction of an integrated phenotype of aging can be achieved based on shared genetics among multiple musculoskeletal biomarkers. Valid biomarkers from other systems of the organism should be similarly explored. The new composite aging score needs to be validated by determining whether it predicts all-cause mortality, incidences of major chronic diseases, and disability late in life. Comprehensive databases on biomarkers of musculoskeletal aging in multiple large cohort studies, along with information on various health outcomes, are needed to validate the proposed measure of biological aging.

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