Epigenetics describes dynamic molecular modifications ‘above the level of the DNA’ which do not alter the genetic code but influence the way the genes encoded by the DNA are expressed. The measurement and analysis of these molecular modifications have led to the development of an “epigenetic clock” in which it is possible to estimate your age based on epigenetic biomarkers (Horvath, 2013). The epigenetic clock has been useful as a marker of overall “health” and risk of mortality - individuals with an advanced epigenetic clock compared to their chronological age have been shown to have an increased risk of age related diseases. Research into what effect lifestyle factors (especially those known to increase life span) have on this epigenetic clock are still in its infancy (Quanch, 2017). Can changing your lifestyle alter your epigenetic clock for the better, increasing life longevity? This project will explore the interrelatedness of longevity associated lifestyle factors and epigenetic profiles within a subset of the ASPREE cohort. The preferred candidate will have a background in biological/medical science or statistics, an interest in epigenetics and strong computer skills, or a willingness to learn such skills. The successful candidate will gain skills in gathering and writing up research findings from current and past literature (literature review). They will also become proficient in ‘R’ programming language, specifically in Bioconductor DNA methylation analysis packages, and become familiar with the DNA methylation age calculator. They will gain knowledge in statistical analysis using cross sectional and longitudinal data, to investigate associations between the epigenetic clock and environmental/lifestyle factors. There will also be opportunity to co-author a manuscript based on this research.
Epigenetics; epidemiology; biological ageing; aging; bioninformatics
School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine
Masters by research
Top-up scholarship funding available
Alfred Centre, The Alfred Hospital