Researchers at Stanford University, using the capabilities of artificial intelligence, have created a tool that is able to predict age-related inflammatory diseases and assess the overall state of the immune system. The development was called the “aging clock” or iAge.
What is iAge
The fact that the level of health directly depends on the state of the immune system has been known for more than a hundred years. But in recent years, scientists have noticed another feature that interested them. It turned out that in the bodies of elderly people, as well as in people with age-related diseases, the number of compounds associated with inflammation is chronically increased. With age, the level of molecules in the human body increases, which are involved in inflammatory processes that cause long-term damage. Neurodegenerative, cardiological, and oncological diseases are associated with systemic chronic inflammation.
As a result, scientists began to study whether markers of inflammatory components in the blood (inflammatory markers of blood) could indicate a person’s biological age and indicate rapid aging with concomitant diseases. To do this, researchers from Stanford University, together with the biotech company Edifice Health, have developed an “aging clock” – an algorithm based on artificial intelligence that analyzes the substances of the immune system in the blood, as well as markers associated with chronic inflammation. The results of the study were published in the scientific publication Nature Aging.
Taking into account the level of immune health and the inflammatory processes present in the body, the development is able to determine the biological age of a person. An increase in inflammatory markers indicates an increased risk of disease, while a lower indicator indicates a relatively healthy immune system. In addition, the “aging clock”, based on the results obtained, is able to give individual recommendations about lifestyle, taking medications and dietary supplements that will help reduce the level of chronic inflammation, and at the same time biological age.
How iAge works
During the work on the creation of iAge, scientists analyzed blood samples of 1001 people aged 8 to 96 years for the presence of markers of systemic age-related inflammation. But if acute inflammation in the body caused by infection can be determined by a number of specific molecules, then no special biomarkers have been identified to determine chronic age-related inflammation. Scientists from Stanford, using sophisticated computational methods, studied the obtained blood samples, taking into account gender, age, body weight, as well as some other biological factors, and were able to identify potential biomarkers for determining chronic inflammation in the body.
Markers that analyze iAge
Multimorbidity is called multiple pathologies in one patient. Simply put, this is a “bouquet” of chronic inflammatory diseases that aggravate each other. The “Aging Clock” confirmed a direct relationship between iAge and multimorbidity. In particular, the tendency to a “bouquet” of diseases is characteristic of people over the age of 60. In addition, scientists have found a direct link between multimorbidity and the number of T-lymphocytes, B-cells and leukocytes, which are part of the immune response.
Using the capabilities of the “aging clock”, scientists analyzed iAge indicators in centenarians whose age was 100 years or more. It turned out that 68% of them had relatively low iAge values detected by the analyzer. This allows us to conclude that low iAge provides exceptional longevity. The study showed that the immune age of centenarians is almost 40 years younger than their actual age.
Immune aging is a deterioration and disorders in the functioning of the immune system that appear with age. For the analysis of this biomarker, a special role was played by the protein CXCL9, which is associated with the process of immunosenescence (a condition in which cells of the immune system stop dividing). There is a direct relationship between this protein and age: by the age of 60, its amount in the body increases significantly.
It is believed that the role of the CXCL9 protein in the process of immunosenescence may be associated with a violation of the functionality of endothelial cells. They are present in the lining of blood vessels and take part in regulating blood flow. In case of damage to endothelial cells in the body, inflammatory processes begin. In particular, scientists found that elderly mice have damaged endothelial cells, and the level of the CXCL9 protein is elevated, which eventually led to the development of atherosclerosis. Other studies have shown that damage to these cells leads to thickening of the heart muscle, and this increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, when the CXCL9 protein was inhibited in experimental mice, the endothelial cells partially restored their functionality.
iAge allows you to determine the indicators of immune aging.
By the way, until that time, among the main signs of aging were:
- genomic instability;
- mitochondrial dysfunction;
- telomere length reduction;
- depletion of stem cells;
- epigenetic changes;
- loss of proteostasis;
- impaired susceptibility to nutrients;
- cellular aging;
- changes in intracellular communication.
After the study, scientists from Stanford said that all these signs are the result of systemic chronic inflammation in the body, so inflammation should also be attributed to the symptoms of aging.
What are the benefits of the “Aging Clock” for medicine
The “Aging Clock” based on artificial intelligence is a development that opens up new opportunities for medicine. The technology allows detecting inflammation and weakening of the immune system at an early stage. In turn, this is useful for identifying people’s propensity for certain diseases and makes it possible to do prevention in time to improve overall health. According to one of the authors of the study, PhD, associate professor at the Buck Institute David Furman, the capabilities of iAge allow predicting possible diseases for 7 years ahead, and this provides huge opportunities in terms of prevention.