Epigenetic age acceleration is associated with allergy and asthma in children in Project Viva

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2019 Jun;143(6):2263-2270.e14. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2019.01.034. Epub 2019 Feb 6.


Background: Epigenetic clocks have been suggested to capture one feature of the complexity between aging and the epigenome. However, little is known about the epigenetic clock in childhood allergy and asthma.

Objective: We sought to examine associations of DNA methylation age (DNAmAge) and epigenetic age acceleration with childhood allergy and asthma.

Methods: We calculated DNAmAge and age acceleration at birth, early childhood, and midchildhood based on the IlluminaHumanMethylation450BeadChip in Project Viva. We evaluated epigenetic clock associations with allergy and asthma using covariate-adjusted linear and logistic regressions. We attempted to replicate our findings in the Genetics of Asthma in Costa Rica Study.

Results: At midchildhood (mean age, 7.8 years) in Project Viva, DNAmAge and age acceleration were cross-sectionally associated with greater total serum IgE levels and greater odds of atopic sensitization. Every 1-year increase in intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration was associated with a 1.22 (95% CI, 1.07-1.39), 1.17 (95% CI, 1.03-1.34), and 1.29 (95% CI, 1.12-1.49) greater odds of atopic sensitization and environmental and food allergen sensitization. DNAmAge and extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration were also cross-sectionally associated with current asthma at midchildhood. DNAmAge and age acceleration at birth and early childhood were not associated with midchildhood allergy or asthma. The midchildhood association between age acceleration and atopic sensitization were replicated in an independent data set.

Conclusions: Because the epigenetic clock might reflect immune and developmental components of biological aging, our study suggests pathways through which molecular epigenetic mechanisms of immunity, development, and maturation can interact along the age axis and associate with childhood allergy and asthma by midchildhood.

Keywords: DNA methylation; Epigenetic clock; allergy; asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / blood
  • Asthma / genetics*
  • Child
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / blood
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / genetics*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Smoking


  • Immunoglobulin E