Research Paper Volume 11, Issue 5 pp 1404—1426

Age-dependent co-dependency structure of biomarkers in the general population of the United States

Alan Le Goallec1,2, , Chirag J. Patel2, ,

  • 1 Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  • 2 Department of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA

Received: November 13, 2018       Accepted: February 21, 2019       Published: February 28, 2019
How to Cite

Copyright: Le Goallec and Patel. This is an open‐access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Phenotypic biomarkers (e.g. cholesterol, weight, and glucose) are important to diagnose and treat diseases associated with aging. However, while many biomarkers are co-dependent (e.g. glycohemoglobin and glucose), it is generally unknown how age influences their co-dependence. In the following, we analyzed 50 biomarkers in 27,508 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) participants (age range: 20 to 80, mean age: 46.3 years old, sexes: 48.9% males, 51.1% females, ethnicities: 46.0% Whites, 27.8% Hispanics, 20.0% non-Hispanic Blacks, 6.1% others) to investigate how the co-dependency structure of common biomarkers evolves with age and whether differences exist between sexes and ethnicities. First, we associated the change in correlations between biomarkers with chronological age. We identified six trends and replicated our top finding (height vs. systolic blood pressure) in participants of the UK Biobank (N=470,895). We found that, on average, correlations tend to decrease with age. Secondly, we examined how biomarkers predict other biomarkers in participants of different age groups. We found 17 (34%) biomarkers whose predictability decreases with age and 5 (10%) biomarkers whose predictability increases with age. A limitation of this study is that it cannot distinguish between biological changes related to aging and generational effects. Our results can be interactively explored here:


NHANES: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.