Care of the elderly has been boosted by the discovery that a protein previously linked to possible cancer prevention, could also be used to determine molecular age.
Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center were responsible for initially identifying the protein p16INK4a as a tumor suppressor.
Scientists believe it will not be long before they are able to detect levels of the biomarker p16INK4a in a simple test.
Senior author of the study and associate professor of medicine and genetics at UNC's School of Medicine Dr Norman Sharpless commented: "This is a major step toward a practical tool to clinically determine a person's actual molecular, as opposed to just their chronological age."
He added that it was yet to be determined whether the test is able to capture cellular age in all tissues, but it would prove useful in assessing whether certain organs can be transplanted, for example
The discovery could also develop treatments that will benefit transplant patients such as the five million people in the UK who suffer from chronic kidney disease.