A Simpler Way to Measure Biological Age: The TruMe Saliva-Based Epigenetic Test

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A Simpler Way to Measure Biological Age: The TruMe Saliva-Based Epigenetic Test

While you may consider your age to be solely determined by how many candles are on your birthday cake each year, internal aging is another story. Researchers use a multitude of biological markers to indicate how quickly your cells, organs, and tissues are deteriorating. As opposed to the chronological age that measures the number of years you’ve spent on earth, biological age assesses damage and dysfunction to cellular markers. 

And while these two tend to line up during our younger years, they can drift further and further apart as we grow older. With an accelerated biological clock, you’re more likely to experience an earlier onset of age-related diseases and bodily decline. Conversely, maintaining healthy habits throughout life can keep you biologically young regardless of chronological age. However, researchers have yet to agree on the best way to measure the internal aging process. 

One novel way to assess biological age is using saliva samples to track epigenetic changes. As opposed to genetics, which is simply the set of genes you have, epigenetics tells you which genes are active or turned “on” or “off.” Now, saliva-based biological age tests on the market have seen dramatic drops in price points, making biological age testing more accessible for the average consumer.

A Look at Epigenetics 

Although there are many ways to look at aging, researchers commonly look at epigenetic-based biological clocks. Epigenetic age is measured by chemical changes or “tags” on DNA. This includes DNA methylation—the addition of a methyl group to DNA—which doesn’t change the DNA sequence itself but, rather, leads to alterations in gene activity. 

These chemical tags, which arise from lifestyle, diet, and environmental conditions, occur long before symptoms of diseases appear, making epigenetics a useful way to predict age-related disorders. As aging increases the amount of methylated DNA, this epigenetic clock is often considered an excellent representation of biological age. 

Other ways to measure biological age include:

Telomere length

Telomeres are the endcaps on the tips of chromosomes, protecting them from damage and dysfunction. Telomeres shorten with each cell division in order to preserve critical genetic information, and shorter telomeres are consistently linked to shorter lifespans and an increased risk of disease. 

Transcriptomics

Changes to the transcriptome, the complete set of messenger RNA molecules that synthesize proteins from genetic material, are a marker of accelerated biological aging.

Metabolomics

Age-related changes to the metabolome—a group of small molecules involved with metabolism called metabolites—can be used as a biological clock. 

Proteomics

Proteomics looks at the proteome—the entire compilation of proteins in the body. The proper synthesis, folding, and regulation of proteins with age deteriorates. 

Gut microbiomics

The newest potential biological clock is based on the gut microbiome. Researchers have identified bacteria that could slow down or speed up the aging process and affect lifespan.

While these markers measure different biological mechanisms in the body, they can all be altered or dysregulated with age. Most biological age tests look at just one or two of them. 

However, it’s unlikely that a single biological clock can fully capture the aging process, and each aging clock comes with its own set of limitations. 

Although we can’t determine biological age down to the exact year and month, many biological age tests on the market—like the TruMe TruAge™ Epigenetic Test—can provide a general idea of how quickly your cells and tissues are aging. 

A Simpler Way to Measure Biological Age: The TruMe Saliva-Based Epigenetic Test

How Does TruMe Work?

To determine biological age, tests like TruMe measure methylation within specific regions, especially on small DNA regions called CpG islands. These islands tend to be clustered around genes and can change genetic activity. Reversing DNA methylation at CpG sites is considered a potential anti-aging strategy for restoring gene activity and thereby improving physiological function. 

The technology used with the TruMe Epigenetic Test measures your DNA methylation at only a tiny fraction of the billions of your nucleotides—the components that make up your DNA. Like all biological age tests, it is subject to some statistical error. However, unlike epigenetic tests of the past, which could have error rates of 10-20 years, TruMe has approximately a 4.6-year error rate potential.

The Benefits of Saliva For Biological Age Testing

Although blood is the most commonly used substance for clinical analysis, some drawbacks include painful or invasive collection processes and requiring an appointment with a medical professional. Conversely, saliva samples are much easier to collect, can be done at home, and are much less invasive than blood samples. 

But you may wonder if the results are the same—is saliva able to gain the same epigenetic data as blood? Research published in the journal Frontiers in Aging suggests that, yes, saliva samples produce similar results. Saliva contains high-quality DNA and a wide range of clinically relevant molecules, including inflammatory markers, microRNA, and RNA antibodies.

Saliva also is rich in both white blood cells and buccal cells—cheek cells that are commonly swabbed in DNA and PCR tests. Saliva is inherently heterogeneous, consisting of varying proportions of epithelial and immune cells that age at different rates. Therefore, saliva-based biological age tests require the ability to measure multi-tissue samples in order to handle the variable composition of saliva and separate it into its constituent components—also known as deconvolution.

The Future of Spitting For Science

Based on the ease of collection—no lab, no needles, no phlebotomist—saliva-based testing is becoming a less expensive option for anti-aging and biohacking enthusiasts. With a lower price point, it’s now possible to test and track your biological age over time, with recommendations to take the test every six months. If you’ve been curious about whether or not your anti-aging supplements are working for you, the TruMe Epigenetic Test is a low-cost way to look under the hood and see how things are running. 

As Galkin and colleagues state in their Frontiers in Aging paper, “While blood is easily available in clinical settings, the necessity to schedule blood drawing stands in the way of consumer biogerontology applications. Using cell deconvolution to adapt the existing blood domain solutions to saliva samples will increase the adoption rate of the aging clock technology.” 

Show references

Galkin F, Kochetov K, Mamoshina P, and Zhavoronkov A. Adapting Blood DNA Methylation Aging Clocks for Use in Saliva Samples With Cell-type Deconvolution. Front. Aging. 2021;2:697254. doi: 10.3389/fragi.2021.697254

​​Galkin F, Mamoshina P, Aliper A, et al. Human Gut Microbiome Aging Clock Based on Taxonomic Profiling and Deep Learning. iScience. 2020;23(6):101199. doi:10.1016/j.isci.2020.101199

Küchler EC, Tannure PN, Falagan-Lotsch P, Lopes TS, Granjeiro JM, Amorim LM. Buccal cells DNA extraction to obtain high-quality human genomic DNA suitable for polymorphism genotyping by PCR-RFLP and Real-Time PCR. J Appl Oral Sci. 2012;20(4):467-471. doi:10.1590/s1678-77572012000400013

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