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We develop field deployable epigenetic clocks
Wild animals do not come with birth certificates. But if we could estimate the age of wild animals, we could ask: which environments cause rapid ageing? How does age structure impact disease spread or reservoir capacity? Such questions about age and ageing require accurate biomarkers of age.

Epigenetic biomarkers based on DNA methylation (DNAm) meet this requirement. These epigenetic clocks can estimate the age of a human to within a few years. In humans, lifestyle, infection and reproduction cause clocks to tick faster, so in addition to estimating
chronological age, epigenetic clocks can reveal biological age by identifying individuals who are age-accelerated due to stressful features of the environment. However, in humans, disentangling the causal relationships between DNA methylation, environment, and ageing is difficult.

Thus, the prospect of applying an epigenetic clock to wild animals is exciting, and through studying a wide range of wild animals in the wide range of environments that they experience, we can uncover many more of the important and general drivers of ageing.

To this end we have developed a rapid methodology and analysis pipeline for ageing animals in the wild. This work utilises Oxford Nanopore sequencers and has been achieved through a collaboration with the Arctic Network. An early release version of the bioinformatics pipeline for ageing wild wood mice is on Github

Our study organisms are Wood Mice, The European Shag and the waterflea Daphnia magna


Don't just read, join us: PhD project on Ageing in the Wild

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