The Europe-wide "MARK-AGE" project involving scientists from 14 countries commenced on the 1st April 2008. Scientists have joined forces to investigate the factors involved in ageing. They are using standardised questionnaires and analysing data acquired from physical and biochemical examinations of the blood and urine from 3,700 volunteers. The researchers hope to be able to find better ways of preventing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis or arthrosis, all of which tend to occur mainly in the latter part of a person’s life. The team of experts includes the medical expert Professor Alexander Bürkle and the mathematician Prof. Michael Junk who is responsible for the biostatistical analysis of the data acquired. The two researchers from the University of Constance talked to Michael Statnik about their search for a formula to determine the biological age of humans.
Bürkle: Ageing depends on the genes that people inherit from their parents. This genetic makeup cannot be altered. But it also depends on lifestyle, which fortunately, can be changed. Factors such as tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, being overweight, lack of exercise and sleep and many other factors affect the ageing process. We want to focus on the analysis of different parameters in our cross-sectional study. This includes simple basic examinations such as body size, weight, blood pressure, creatinine and cholesterol values, lung capacity, muscle power, grasping strength, memory tests, blood samples and so on.
Junk: This is difficult to say. But we can assume that some markers will have a major significance in important body systems such as metabolism, cardiovascular system or immune system. An exciting question is also whether the DNA- or protein-based markers will provide additional information. But this question has to be answered using systematic correlation analysis.