Nathan Price, PhD, on Predictive Biomarkers and Biological Aging

younger and older generation hands
Dr. Price was a plenary speaker at IFM’s 2020 Annual International Conference (AIC). AIC 2020 recordings including Dr. Price's lecture are available for purchase here.

IFM Director of Medical Education Dan Lukaczer, ND, recently spoke with Nathan Price, PhD, on the topic of “Predictive Biomarkers and Biological Aging Health Information.” More specifically, they discussed how to use metabolites in the blood to predict microbiome diversity. Researchers are unlocking the mysteries of the human microbiome and translating that scientific knowledge into therapies for a number of complex diseases, said Dr. Price. The robust relationship between host metabolome and gut microbiome diversity opens the door for a fast, cheap, and reliable blood test to identify individuals with low gut diversity. The findings were published in Nature Biotechnology.

“Without detailed information about host health and microbiome composition, defining a healthy gut microbiome has been difficult,” said Dr. Price, a co-corresponding author of the paper. “Our findings allow us to evaluate the structure of the microbiome through the lens of host physiology. We believe the microbiome’s reflections in the host are the best way forward for determining what is a healthy microbiome.”

Dr. Price is professor and associate director of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, WA, where he co-directs the Hood-Price Integrated Lab for Systems Biomedicine with Lee Hood. He is also affiliate faculty at the University of Washington in the departments of Bioengineering, Computer Science & Engineering and Molecular & Cellular Biology. In 2019, he was selected by the National Academy of Medicine as one of their 10 Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine.

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In the following interview, Dr. Price discusses the relationship between the metabolome and the microbiome, as well as the difference between biological aging and
chronological aging as it relates to longevity. To this end, researchers have harnessed deep molecular and physiological information to determine an individual’s biological age, which they have found may serve as an effective and reliable predictor of overall health. Clues from the metabolome give us a good understanding of biological age.

Diseases were seen to be associated with a higher biological age estimate compared with chronological age, while participation in a wellness program was shown to have a positive effect on biological aging compared to chronological age, explains Dr. Price, who was a corresponding author of the study. Furthermore, we can manipulate our environment to change the metabolome, which in turn also changes our biological age. The findings were published in a special issue on healthy aging in the Journals of Gerontology. Biological age, as a concept, is important in that it can help clinicians understand the risk for disease.

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The following text gives a bulleted breakdown of some of the topics discussed in the podcast linked above.

Understanding the Metabolome:
  • Generating deep genotyping
  • Developing a metabolomic signature
Relationship Between Metabolites and the Microbiome:
  • Relationship between microbiome and chronic disease
  • Targeting specific metabolites to improve health and well-being
  • Strategies for how to manipulate the microbiome
Biological Aging vs. Chronological Aging:
  • How do we measure it?
  • Clinical takeaways
Polygenic Scores:
  • Measuring clinical markers in the context of the genome
  • Predictability of successful lifestyle interventions via genetics
  • Clinical markers

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