Researchers have long suspected that accumulated mutations in somatic cells cause aging. But before now, the inability to directly identify mutations in primary human tissue has constrained researchers’ attempts to establish causality.

Using a highly accurate single-cell whole-genome sequencing method enabled by Cell Microsystems tools, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found that the number of somatic mutations increases from less than 500 per cell in newborns to 3,000+ per cell in centenarians.

They describe other findings from their research — as well as their implications — in the April 30 publication of the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). Their article, “Single-cell whole-genome sequencing reveals the functional landscape of somatic mutations in B lymphocytes across the human lifespan,” is available online.