Biophysical and biomolecular determination of cellular age in humans

Jude M. Phillip, Pei Hsun Wu, Daniele M. Gilkes, Wadsworth Williams, Shaun McGovern, Jena Daya, Jonathan Chen, Ivie Aifuwa, Jerry S.H. Lee, Rong Fan, Jeremy Walston, Denis Wirtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Ageing research has focused either on assessing organ- and tissue-based changes, such as lung capacity and cardiac function, or on changes at the molecular scale such as gene expression, epigenetic modifications and metabolism. Here, by using a cohort of 32 samples of primary dermal fibroblasts collected from individuals between 2 and 96 years of age, we show that the degradation of functional cellular biophysical features - including cell mechanics, traction strength, morphology and migratory potential - and associated descriptors of cellular heterogeneity predict cellular age with higher accuracy than conventional biomolecular markers. We also demonstrate the use of high-throughput single-cell technologies, together with a deterministic model based on cellular features, to compute the cellular age of apparently healthy males and females, and to explore these relationships in cells from individuals with Werner syndrome and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, two rare genetic conditions that result in phenotypes that show aspects of premature ageing. Our findings suggest that the quantification of cellular age may be used to stratify individuals on the basis of cellular phenotypes and serve as a biological proxy of healthspan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0093
JournalNature biomedical engineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 30 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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