Epigenetic age acceleration and cardiovascular outcomes in school-age children: The Generation R Study

Giulietta S. Monasso, Vincent W.V. Jaddoe, Leanne K. Küpers, Janine F. Felix*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Hypertension and atherosclerosis may partly originate in early life. Altered epigenetic aging may be a mechanism underlying associations of early-life exposures and the development of cardiovascular risk factors in childhood. A discrepancy between chronological age and age predicted from neonatal DNA methylation data is referred to as age acceleration. It may either be positive, if DNA methylation age is older than clinical age, or negative, if DNA methylation age is younger than chronological age. We examined associations of age acceleration at birth (‘gestational age acceleration’), and of age acceleration at school-age, with blood pressure and with intima-media thickness and distensibility of the common carotid artery, as markers of vascular structure and function, respectively, measured at age 10 years. Results: This study was embedded in the Generation R Study, a population-based prospective cohort study. We included 1115 children with information on cord blood DNA methylation and blood pressure, carotid intima-media thickness or carotid distensibility. Gestational age acceleration was calculated using the Bohlin epigenetic clock, which was developed specifically for cord blood DNA methylation data. It predicts gestational age based on methylation levels of 96 CpGs from HumanMethylation450 BeadChip. We observed no associations of gestational age acceleration with blood pressure, carotid intima-media thickness or carotid distensibility at age 10 years. In analyses among children with peripheral blood DNA methylation measured at age 6 (n = 470) and 10 (n = 449) years, we also observed no associations of age acceleration at these ages with the same cardiovascular outcomes, using the ‘skin and blood clock,’ which predicts age based on methylation levels at 391 CpGs from HumanMethylation450 BeadChip. Conclusions: Our findings do not provide support for the hypothesis that altered epigenetic aging during the earliest phase of life is involved in the development of cardiovascular risk factors in childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number205
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Carotid intima-media thickness
  • Cohort study
  • Distensibility
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetic clock
  • Gestational age

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