Epigenetic age has emerged as an important biomarker of biological ageing. It has revealed that some tissues age faster than others, which is vital to understanding the complex phenomenon of ageing and developing effective interventions. Previous studies have demonstrated that humans exhibit heterogeneity in pace of epigenetic ageing among brain structures that are consistent with differences in structural and microanatomical deterioration. Here, we add comparative data on epigenetic brain ageing for chimpanzees, humans’ closest relatives. Such comparisons can further our understanding of which aspects of human ageing are evolutionarily conserved or specific to our species, especially given that humans are distinguished by a long lifespan, large brain, and, potentially, more severe neurodegeneration with age. Specifically, we investigated epigenetic ageing of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, of humans and chimpanzees by generating genome-wide CpG methylation data and applying established epigenetic clock algorithms to produce estimates of biological age for these tissues. We found that both species exhibit relatively slow epigenetic ageing in the brain relative to blood. Between brain structures, humans show a faster rate of epigenetic ageing in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex compared to the cerebellum, which is consistent with previous findings. Chimpanzees, in contrast, show comparable rates of epigenetic ageing in the two brain structures. Greater epigenetic change in the human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex compared to the cerebellum may reflect both the protracted development of this structure in humans and its greater age-related vulnerability to neurodegenerative pathology.
- Alzheimer‘s disease
- Pan troglodytes