December 6, 2023

New protein calculation uncovers which organs are aging at an accelerated pace

Editor's Note

Researchers from Stanford Medicine have found a way to detect which organs in someone’s body are aging at an accelerated rate using a simple blood test. The findings were published in the journal Nature on December 6. 

This study looked at 5,678 people and found that about one in five reasonably healthy adults who are 50 and over had at least one organ aging at a strongly accelerated rate. These people, in turn, were found to be at heightened risk for disease in that particular organ in the next 15 years.

To determine the rate of aging in specific organs, the researchers looked at 5,000 proteins in the blood and identified those that were more activated in a particular organ, ultimately selecting 858 organ-specific proteins. They then measured the levels of these organ-specific proteins within each individual's blood and used an algorithm to determine an “age gap”–or the difference between an organ's actual age and its estimated age based on the algorithm's calculations. 

Having an accelerated-aging organ carried a 15% to 50% higher mortality risk over the next 15 years, depending on which organ was affected. The researchers hope this work will help clinicians to identify areas where disease might arise, allowing for treatment before patients get sick, and also point the way to new drug targets.


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