Determination of accelerated ageing in trauma patients and the impact on rehabilitation

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Project Aim

Survivors of a major trauma such as a road traffic accident have their lifespans shortened by approximately 10 years. This project aims to determine if this is due to the injury accelerating the ageing process.

Background

Survivors of a major trauma, such as a road traffic accident or military conflict, have their lifespans shortened by up to 10 years. These patients also develop age-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer much earlier than people who have not been severely injured. One possible explanation is that the injury and subsequent large scale repair processes have resulted in an acceleration of the ageing process. Until very recently it was not possible to test this idea as we could not determine how rapidly someone was ageing, but now there are a range of biomarkers that can determine an individual’s biological age as opposed to their chronological age.

Method

This project will use three main methods to determine whether survivors of a major trauma show signs of accelerated ageing. Blood samples will be analysed at 1 week, 6 months and up to 8 years after injury in patients who were injured and had an injury severity score of 16 or higher. The early time points are from stored PBMCs and the 8 year follow up samples are being collected now. The samples will be assessed for three measures of ageing: Telomere length in PBMCs, DNA methylation at 350 CpG sites according to the Horvath and Hannum epigenetic clock algorithms and the IMM-AGE analysis of blood cell phenotype. The data taken together with clinical measures will reveal if the patients have evidence of accelerated ageing.

Research Team

Lay Summary

It is well established that if someone survives a major injury such as a car traffic accident that they still die 10 years earlier than someone who never had a serious injury. Interestingly these patient tend to die early of age-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer. This study is testing the idea that the injury leads to a speeding up of the ageing process as the body has to put significant effort into repairing the injury. Until recently we had no way of testing if ageing had been accelerated but this is now possible, This study will, therefore, take blood samples from patients soon after injury and then 6 months and up to 8 years later and analyse the samples to determine if the patient is biologically older than their actual chronological age.

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