What is the DNA fitness test

DNA test: fitness test for the genome

The genetic makeup changes over the years and these changes include, in particular, the so-called methylations. Small molecular building blocks, so-called methyl groups, are gradually added to certain parts of the DNA (genetic material). This can mean that certain genes can no longer be read. These changes increase the likelihood that genetic changes will occur in specific locations. As a result, diseases can develop. Experts therefore speak of "contamination" of the DNA when it comes to methylation.

"But methylation is also a natural process that takes place in every human being in the course of life," says Prof. Carsten Claussen from the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Hamburg. Methylation also controls certain biological processes in the body. However, too much methylation can be a problem. "To a certain extent, methylation is an indicator of the aging of the body," says Carsten Claussen. Carsten Claussen and his team have developed a method for measuring biological age together with scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT - and implemented a demonstrator from it. The Cerascreen company, which cooperates with the Fraunhofer experts, has now developed a test from this.

For the test, the user takes a swab from the oral mucosa with a cotton swab and sends it to a laboratory. A genetic analysis takes place there, which provides data on the genes and the methylation status of the DNA. This data is then analyzed with an AI software developed at Fraunhofer IME. The software then uses the methylation data to determine the biological age. The first series of tests on around 150 test subjects show that the algorithm works very well. The estimates of the biological age in healthy and fit people tend to agree surprisingly well with the actual chronological age of the people.

The Fraunhofer scientists are mainly working on a future medical mission. It is known that methylation blocks certain genes. The researchers now want to find active ingredients that specifically dissolve such methylations of certain genes. In doing so, they want to stop the aging process in these areas in order to prevent diseases from developing later.

"Today there are huge databases with several thousand active substances that we want to test in the laboratory to find out whether they work in certain methylations," says Carsten Claussen. In a second step, new active ingredients will then also be developed and tested.

Carsten Claussen and his team first developed an algorithm that can detect characteristic genes and methylations in the data from the genetic analysis. "The algorithm is also able to find previously unknown fields in the genome that contain relevant genes," says Claussen - in other words, especially those genes that may fail due to methylation and thus be a target for future therapies.

Fraunhofer FIT, in turn, is developing an application that combines data processing, analysis and evaluation in a single user interface. "This makes it possible, for example, to link the genetic information with searches in international databases and public lists - for example if a suspicious gene suddenly appears in the data," says Carina Goretzky from Fraunhofer FIT.

MEDICA.de; Source: Fraunhofer Society