‘Aging clock’ uses AI to predict immune health, disease onset

A new clock uses AI technology to predict the onset of age-related diseases, according to research. Studio 642/Getty Images
  • The new biological clock uses immune-related biomarkers as a way to detect patterns in chronic inflammatory disease risk and improve immune system health.
  • The study analyzed blood samples from 1,001 people aged 8 to 96 years. It established a link between the inflammatory clock (iAge), total disease, longevity and immune deterioration.
  • Multimorbidity is predicted by the iAge — multiple chronic inflammatory diseases, long life expectancy, and immunosenescence. This refers to the age-related deterioration of the immune system and its improper functioning.

Scientists have created an artificial intelligence algorithm, the “inflammatory clock for aging (iAge),” which can predict the onset of age-related inflammation diseases and assess the health of the immune system.

Chronic systemic inflammationTrusted Source is often associated with many age-related conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. This is because of the higher levels of molecules involved with inflammatory processes, which accumulate with age and cause long-term damage to your body.

The algorithm for iAge is based on a thorough examination of multiple immune system biomarkers found in blood. It also identifies metrics and patterns that are associated with chronic inflammatory responses.

An iAge score is a measure of an individual’s age based on their immune health and inflammatory levels. It can be compared to a set reference values or in relation to their years. A higher score on the iAge scale indicates a greater risk of developing disease. Conversely, a lower score can indicate a healthy immune system.

In a paper published in Nature AgingTrusted Source, the researchers discuss the advantages and operation of the device. Nazish Sayed, Yingxiang Hu, and Yingxiang Zhang, both from Stanford University’s School of Medicine, California, led the study.

Edifice Healthcare, a biotechnology company, stated that the clock was also designed to help individuals lower their iAge scores.

Reference values to iAge

The scientists used data from the Stanford 1000 Immomes Project to create a comparison point for iAge. They collected blood samples from a nine-year longitudinal cohort consisting of 1,001 subjects aged between 8 and 96.

The paper notes that chronic inflammation is not linked to a set of biomarkers, unlike acute inflammation which is often caused by infection.

Scientists were able to examine these blood samples and adjust for age, sex and body mass index. This allowed them to do a deeper analysis of immune system and identify biomarkers.

What biomarkers can iAge use to predict

The iAge score was correlated with several metrics of inflammation using a nonlinear comparison technique. These were measured as levels of immune system molecules and associated pathways.

Multimorbidity

Multimorbidity refers the accumulation of multiple chronic inflammation diseases.

There was a strong correlation between multimorbidity (and iAge) An increase in iAge was associated with an increase of multimorbidity in subjects over 60 years old. Researchers also discovered a correlation between the total number of certain T and B cells, white blood cell types that play an important role in immune response, and the total amount of certain T and B cells.

Longevity

Scientists compared the iAge of 100-year-old participants to their actual age. Sixty-eight percent of the 19 participants had a low iAge score. Only 31% were part of the high-ranking group. A comparison group of older adults showed that only 23% of participants had a low age score.

Participants over 100 years old had a lower iAge, which suggests that “iAge” is associated with extraordinary longevity.

Immunosenescence

ImmunosenescenceTrusted source refers to the decline and dysfunction of the immune system as a result of age.

CXCL9, a protein that has links to immunosenescence provided the most input to the iAge patterns. CXCL9, a small protein that regulates immune and inflammatory responses, is the most important. This protein showed positive correlations at baseline with age. However, its levels increased significantly at 60 years.

CXCL9 may play a role in immunosenescence by impairing endothelial cell function. These cells are found in the blood vessels’ lining and regulate blood flow. Inflammatory processes can be promoted by damaged endothelial cell.

A study of the role of this protein in mice revealed that older mice had more CXCL9-positive endothelial cell damage. Atherosclerosis was caused by these damaged cells. Studies have shown that damaged endothelial cell cells can lead to thickening of heart muscle. This is a precursor of cardiovascular disease.

Scientists suggested that CXCL9 production rises with age and endothelial cells become more damaged. This increases the inflammation that causes cardiovascular disease.

The researchers were able to partially restore the function of endothelial cells when they inhibited CXCL9 from mice. This highlights the potential for CXCL9-targeted therapies to be used as preventative measures to delay cell aging and disease.

Application to the iAge clock

AI technology can be used to detect inflammatory conditions early and prevent immune system decline. It can identify people at high risk for early disease onset, and help to implement preventative measures that improve overall health. The paper’s authors point out:

The generation of iAge provides important insights into immune systems and a growing number of aging clocks that can predict health conditions based upon biological processes.

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