Blood tests can show how fast your organs are ageing, study says

Blood tests can show how fast your organs are ageing, study says

Blood tests can determine how fast a person's internal organs are ageing and if they are at risk of failing, according to a new study.

Scientists in the UK monitored 11 major organs, including the heart and lung, and found that all of them can be subject to "accelerated ageing".

The team led by academics from Stanford University in California found people whose organs were ageing faster than the rest of their body had a higher risk of developing diseases in that particular organ within 15 years.

It found that about 20 per cent of the people aged 50 or older had one or more organs ageing at an accelerated rate compared to the rest of the body, according to a new paper published in Nature.

At least one person in every 100 might have several organs that test older than their birth years, the research found.

Scientists said having one or more ageing organs was linked with a higher risk of diseases and eventually death over the next 15 years. The study suggests figuring out which organs were in rapid decline could help reveal underlying health issues.

The team used a machine-learning algorithm to investigate around 5,000 proteins in the blood of people aged between 20 and 90.

Scientists analysed ageing in 11 major organs – brain, heart, liver, lung, intestine, kidney, fat, blood vessels, immune tissue, muscles and pancreas – to estimate organ age reproducibly in five independent cohorts encompassing 5,676 adults.

Tony Wyss-Coray, a professor of neurology at Stanford University and senior study author, said: "We can estimate the biological age of an organ in an apparently healthy person."

"That, in turn, predicts a person's risk for disease related to that organ."

According to the study, having a prematurely old heart was linked to a 250 per cent increased risk of heart failure, while people with an ageing brain were more likely to be prone to dementia.

Researchers found that in 10 of the organs studied, a larger age gap was associated with an increased risk of death over the next 15 years.

"If we can reproduce this finding in 50,000 or 100,000 individuals it will mean that by monitoring the health of individual organs in apparently healthy people, we might be able to find organs that are undergoing accelerated ageing in people's bodies and we might be able to treat people before they get sick," Mr Wyss-Coray added.

With further research, these protein biomarkers might “help people by directing them to change their lifestyle or take some supplement", said Matt Kaeberlein, a specialist in the biology of ageing and chief executive of Optispan, a biotechnology company in Seattle.

"That’s powerful regardless of causality," he told the journal.