Aging is associated with quantitative and qualitative changes in circulating cell-free DNA: the Vitality 90+ study

Mech Ageing Dev. Jan-Feb 2011;132(1-2):20-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2010.11.001. Epub 2010 Nov 13.


As a marker of cellular death, cell-free DNA (cf-DNA) has a utility in diagnosis and prognosis of various disorders. Since aging accompanies increased cellular senescence and death, we aimed to characterize potential age-related alterations in cf-DNA. The study population consisted of 12 nonagenarian women (participants in the Vitality 90+ Study) and 11 healthy control women (aged 22-37 years). Some of the nonagenarians (n=8) were also recruited for follow-up after one year. cf-DNA was extracted using two different methods. Total cf-DNA was quantified directly in plasma and the amplifiable cf-DNA was assessed using quantitative PCR. Quality of cf-DNA was analysed with a DNA Chip assay. For all the quantification methods, the concentration of cf-DNA was significantly higher (p<0.05) in nonagenarians as compared to controls. The quality of the cf-DNA also displayed a marked difference between nonagenarians and controls; a fragmented pattern or appearance of low molecular weight cf-DNA was observed in the majority of the nonagenarians, whereas in controls, cf-DNA was intact and had a quasi-genomic, high molecular weight appearance. In nonagenarians, the quality of cf-DNA appeared similar in the original and follow-up samples. We propose that some, as yet uncharacterized, aspects of aging are reflected in the appearance of cf-DNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood*
  • Aging / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / blood*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molecular Weight
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Young Adult
  • beta-Globins / genetics


  • DNA Primers
  • beta-Globins
  • DNA