Ageing: Your organs may age at different rates

Your organs are not necessarily of the same biological age. Tracking their individual ageing patterns could help you predict your likelihood of developing certain diseases.

An analysis of hundreds if biological features supports the idea that some organs or body systems age more quickly than others. Tracking the biological ageThe ability to see the different parts of the body could help doctors better predict when disease will strike.

We knew that cell condition can be used to determine a person’s biological age. This is in addition to their actual age in years. In other words, cell condition – which varies depending on genetic and lifestyle factors – determines the pace of the ageing process.

Now, work by Brian Kennedy at the National University of Singapore and his colleagues supports the idea that the various organs and systems in the body – such as the cardiovascular or immune system – can age at different rates within the same individual.

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“It confirms previous studies that there are diverse ageing rates among organs and systems, and people’s ageing patterns are different,” says Wenyu Zhouat Tempus, a precision-medicine company based in Chicago. “This further calls for personalised health assessments that holistically consider various ageing processes.”

Kennedy’s team collected stool and blood samples from about 480 people aged between 20 and 45 and measured a total of 403 biological features in each individual.

The biomarkers were classified into nine categories by the team to assess the biological ages of the kidneys and liver, gut microbiome (heart, stomach, heart, immune system, metabolic, and sex hormone systems). The team also assessed biological age using physical fitness tests and by analysing photographs of participants’ faces.

Out of the nine systems and organs assessed, the biological age of an individual’s cardiovascular system correlated the most with the people’s age in years – their “chronological age”. The strongest link between biological age and chronological age was seen in the biological age the gut microbiome. The biological age of the liver, sex hormone systems, and sex was the most variable among individuals. This showed that different parts of the body have distinct biological ages.

The team also discovered that the biological age of the liver could be used to predict which people had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – a risk factor for type 2 diabetes – and the severity of the condition. This led to the conclusion that monitoring the biological ages of each organ could help predict disease risk.

 “There are still many steps before translating the findings to real-world applications,” says Zhou. She says that it is not yet clear if there are interventions that can slow down the ageing process of a specific organ or system.

Journal reference: Cell Reports, DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110459

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