What’s The Difference Between Chronological and Biological age?
Chronological age is the number of years a person has been alive while biological age refers to how old your cells are which reflect in your functional capacity, immune resilience, overall health, and potential lifespan. How fast your chronological clock is ticking is beyond your control; however, your body or biological clock is more vulnerable to your actions and can be positively or negatively influenced by your lifestyle. Genetics also plays an important role in determining your biological age and life expectancy potential. However, mounting research indicates that certain environmental factors can profoundly impact your biological age and can significantly change your inherited aging pace and longevity fate. (1)
Today, we know that stress alone can add up to 10 years to your biological age. (2) In the meantime, we also have learned over the last a few years diets rich in healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables, intermittent fasting, calorie restriction, regular exercise, high-intensity interval training, moderate alcohol consumption, non-smoking, being socially connected, and having a positive outlook on life have all been linked to lengthening life expectancy and slowing down the aging pace. We have also learned that the benefits of these simple lifestyle interventions do not only manifest in the appearance of your skin but they also literally change the way your genes express and the pace your cells age. These genetic changes have been proven to add not only just years to your lifespan but also impact positively on the quality of health you enjoy throughout those years gained. (3)
Healthspan, defined as all those years of life that are associated with great health, is a relatively new concept, but a common desire for all aging beings. After all, aging is inevitable and we are all early or later going there, but aging well is up to us especially if we understand the science behind it and apply it wisely.
What is your Immunity Age?
The current pandemic came to reinforce two things. First, the important role the immune system plays in protecting our body against infections. And second, the protective capacity of our immune system commonly wanes with aging, especially on those who are aging unhealthily. We all recognize today that aging seems to be associated with decreased immune resilience. (4) However, we also learn that those who are aging healthily, looking, acting, and feeling younger than their actual age, seem to have better immune resilience than those who suffer from multiple chronic aging-related diseases and frailty.
How old your immune system acts, is more important than your actual age when you are fighting a virus like a coronavirus. Although there is advanced and sophisticated testing that allows us to quantify in numbers how strong your innate immune system might be currently available. These tests are not yet available for the collective, as they are not easy to interpret and outside of the standard of care testing covered by insurance and Medicare. Yet, there are also ways to predict how resilient your immune system might be by analyzing your lifestyle, especially if the system focuses on those lifestyle and environmental factors that matter and impact your immune system and cellular aging pace.
At ONOGEN, we decided to translate the complex concept of immunity resilience to an easy-to-understand number, your Immunity Age. Understanding your immunity age is the first step to take control over your immunity health and its aging pace. In an era where it has become more and more important to be healthy and preserve your immune system strong, tools built to promote and encourage those healthy habits that matter to aging well have become more important than ever.
Helping people to understand how their immune system works and what are those meaningful interventions would matter for them to make their immune system younger, stronger and healthier seems to be a wise step to take.
At ONOGEN, a Miami-based biotech startup I have founded and led for the last 4 years, we have made our mission to build the first and only Immunity Age Calculator, based on proprietary algorithms founded on the Nobel prize research of telomeres. While the prototype has been already launched for testing, I have been blessed with an amazing and inspiring team that is constantly working to simplify and enhance the quiz experience while increasing the database, with a long term goal of building up an AI platform that allows people to get personalized recommendations to improve their Immunity Age. We are currently looking for Investors to support the build-up of this platform that up to now has been self-funded. Our goal is to invest the money in expediting the research and development of this platform, which would allow us to validate the algorithms and become the first evidence medical-based AI platform in history to support people to slow down aging from genes out.
I am hopeful that as we become more and more aware of how important healthy aging is for all of us, no matter our age, more resources get dedicated to promote and encourage project focus on healthy longevity.
I wish that we finally learn this lesson, and we never underestimate again the power of our daily choice over our immune function and health fate. Quoting Dr. Dean Ornish, whose tireless work, efforts, and enthusiasm have been an inspiration for me throughout all these years of hard work: “Many people tend to think of breakthroughs in medicine as new drugs, lasers or high-tech surgical procedures. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lifestyles – what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and social support- can be as powerful as drugs and surgery, but they often are. Sometimes even better.”(5)
While I have been using hashtags as #wearemany #weareone #weareonthistogether on my IG account @ChiefBiohacker, I think the pandemic has come to remind us that the health of others matters to all of us. Whereas, the pandemic took us unaware of how unhealthily we all were and perhaps for some awake us on how unempathetic we were being towards our elderlies and their aging process. (6) I hope that ONOGEN’s Immunity Age Calculator becomes just one of those multiple tools that will be developed in the near future, to help us to prepare better for possible future pandemics. We definitely were caught off guard, because we had not been putting enough meaningful efforts to promote and support people aging healthfully. This cannot ever happen again. We need to build up stronger than ever from here.
Are You Wondering How Old You and Your Immune System Really Are?
Take The Immunity Age Quiz Here: Immunity Age Quiz | ONOGEN.
What Other Markers for Biological Age are Out There?
Extensive effort has been made, during the past decades, to identify reliable aging biomarkers that measure individual Immunity and Functional Age the efforts have not been yet enough. The ultimate and common goal is to be able to predict an individual’s immune resilience, lifespan, and healthspan with a simple, friendly, scalable, affordable, replicable, and scientifically founded system.
Immunity Age is just the first step for a larger project of creating a database that monitors not only your Immunity Age but also Functional and Telomere Age. This quest has led me to research and develop multiple formulas and algorithms to calculate biological age based on different factors, including medical history, family history, quality of your relationship, degree of stress perception, lifestyle, functional capacity, body composition, and other personal and environmental factors that have been proven to influence significantly over our chance of enjoying healthy longevity.
While there are currently different state-of-the-art technologies in research and development as potential types of biological age predictors, including but not limited to the epigenetic clocks, telomere length, transcriptomic predictors, proteomic predictors, metabolomics-based predictors, and composite biomarker predictors. Of all of them, telomere length – the end protective cap of your chromosomes that determine the lifespan of your cells- (7) and DNA methylation (8–9) – degree of chemical bond key for your DNA to express in a certain way duplicate correctly – seems to be the most validated and promising so far. I have chosen telomere length as my marker of choice because the evidence supports that it is a better marker to predict lifespan and healthspan. While, on the other hand, DNA methylation seems to be better at determining cellular age, its predictive power as to how good your aging process will be, seems to have not been proven yet. DNA methylation, although accurate, seems to be too static to have any empowering value in clinical practice. I found in my clinical practice that telomere length instead, is a more dynamic marker that can reflect the impact of your efforts on your chance to live longer, younger, happier, and sexier. A dynamic marker means that it changes over time, that you can track and you can celebrate or correct your actions based on that. A marker that reflects what of those choices and behaviors you have taken are really meaningful to you to promote healthy longevity. Without a doubt, telomeres are the best available marker to help us create and design a personalized plan. Besides, I love the fact that it is also a holistic marker, as it allows us to easily understand a reflection of how our emotions, outlook of life, validated spiritual practice – such as meditation, Qigong, and yoga – and mental health impact our genes and our biology as well.
With the rapid increase in the numbers of older people around the world, research and biotech development in the field of immunity and aging become increasingly important. (10) This realization, together with the recent and ongoing pandemic, hopefully, will facilitate rapid progress towards a better understanding of immunity and aging and the resulting anticipated improved application of this knowledge to develop meaningful therapeutic interventions in the years ahead.
- Moskalev A. The challenges of estimating biological age. Elife. 2020;9:e54969. Published 2020 Feb 11. doi:10.7554/eLife.54969 (link)
- Epel, E.S. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101(49): 17312-17315. (link)
- Blackburn EH. Telomeres and telomerase: their mechanisms of action and the effects of altering their functions. FEBS Lett. 2005;579:859–62 (link)
- Akbar, A, Gilroy D. Aging immunity may exacerbate COVID-19. Science 17 Jul 2020. VOl 369. Issue 6501, pp. 256-57 (link)
- Ornish, D. Mostly plants. Am J Cardiol. 2009 Oct 1;104(7):957-8. (link).
- Tina Woods. “Healthy Longevity For All” Wins the Vote For the Global Health Reset. Forbes,com Nov 18, 2020 (link)
- Blackburn EH. Epel, E.S.The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer. Grand Central Publishing. 2017. (link)
- Sinclair, D. A. & LaPlante, M. D. Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don’t Have To 13–23, 158–175 (Simon & Schuster, 2019). (link)
- Lu, Y., Brommer, B., Tian, X. et al. Reprogramming to recover youthful epigenetic information and restore vision. Nature 588, 124–129 (2020).(link)
- Weng NP, Pawelec G. Research on immunity and aging comes of age. Immun Ageing. 2019;16:8. Published 2019 Apr 29. (link)