These somatic mutations and the associated diseases they cause may accelerate a person's biological age how old their body appears faster than their chronological age.
‘The changes to DNA, known as somatic mutations, can impact the way blood stem cells work and are linked to blood cancers and other age-related conditions.’
"Previously, somatic mutations have largely been studied in cancer. Our findings suggest they play a role in other diseases, which will change the way we study disease risk," said Dr. Tamir Chandra, Group Leader at the University of Edinburgh's MRC Human Genetics Unit.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, examined these changes and their potential effects in more than 1,000 older people from the Lothian Birth Cohorts (LBCs), born in 1921 and 1936.
The LBCs are a group of people - now in their 80s and 90s - who sat intelligence tests as 11-year olds. They are some of the most intensively studied research participants in the world.
Scientists studied people where the biological and chronological age was separated by a large gap.
They found the participants with somatic mutations - around six percent - had a biological age almost four years older than those with no alterations.
Experts say they will now explore the link between these DNA changes and biological aging acceleration.