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A medical exam that measures the age of organs through a blood sample could potentially aid in forecasting the likelihood of developing diseases.

Researchers propose that utilizing a blood test to assess the biological age of an individual’s organs could potentially aid in early treatment and forecasting of illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers in the United States discovered that individuals with accelerated aging of specific organs were more susceptible to developing related diseases within a 15-year timeframe.

A group of researchers from Stanford University in California employed machine learning to evaluate the protein concentrations in human blood.

The research centered on 11 different body parts or systems, such as the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, intestines, immune system, muscles, fat, and blood vessels.

The researchers trained their algorithm by measuring the levels of nearly 5,000 proteins in the blood of 1,398 individuals without Alzheimer’s disease at Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. The participants’ ages ranged from 20 to 90, with most being in the later stages of life.

The scientists identified 858 proteins that were specific to certain organs and had four times higher gene activation compared to others. They then used these proteins to train the algorithm in predicting a person’s age.

The lead researcher, Tony Wyss-Coray, who is a neurology professor and holds the DH Chen Professor II position at Stanford University, stated: “We are able to calculate the biological age of an organ in an outwardly healthy individual. This can then be used to predict their likelihood of developing organ-related diseases.”

In total, the team experimented with their formula on 5,676 individuals from five groups. The research, which was published in Nature, showed that nearly 20% of patients displayed a significant increase in age in one organ, while 1.7% showed signs of aging in multiple organs. The scientists also noted that those with accelerated organ aging had a 20%-50% higher risk of mortality.

Individuals with a faster rate of heart ageing had a 250% increased chance of developing heart failure. Additionally, the acceleration of brain and vascular ageing was a more accurate indicator of Alzheimer’s progression compared to the most effective blood-based biomarker currently available.

According to Wyss-Coray, if we can confirm this discovery in a large sample of 50,000 or 100,000 individuals, it could potentially help us identify any organs in seemingly healthy individuals that are aging faster than normal. This could enable us to intervene and treat these individuals before they develop any illnesses.

In regards to the research, Dr. Leah Mursaleen, the director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, stated that the diseases responsible for dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, can initiate in the brain long before symptoms become noticeable.

We need to discover straightforward ways to accurately identify individuals at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s because current treatments have only been effective in the initial stages of the disease. Exciting new treatments are on the horizon, but they are not yet proven to work in later stages.

This research proposes that examining the contents of our blood can offer a crucial opportunity to observe the inner workings of our body, specifically at the individual organ level such as the brain.

According to Mursaleen, markers found in the blood may be able to indicate the aging of the brain and blood vessels, and could potentially predict the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“At its preliminary phase, this field of science has the capability to contribute to our expanding range of blood-based detection techniques. Several of these techniques are nearing regular utilization,” she stated. “It is probable that the NHS will introduce the initial blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease in the next five years.”

The advancement of more precise and less intrusive techniques for identifying symptoms of age-related illnesses, including the initial indications and advancement of Alzheimer’s, will bring us closer to finding a cure. Additional research in this field is necessary to create and confirm the effectiveness of such tools, in order to stay ahead of the progression of dementia.

Source: theguardian.com