This New Tool Can Measure Immune System Age And Help Prevent Diseases

Have you ever thought of a device gauging your immune system? A new tool can determine an individual’s immune system age shown in a new research project led by the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The findings suggest tracking the degree of low-grade chronic inflammation that appears as we age could help predict frailty and disease before symptoms appear. The low-degree chronic inflammation that increases as we age could be one of the basic factors that can help diagnose a disease before any symptoms even begin.

“Every year, the calendar tells us we’re a year older,” but not all humans age biologically at the same rate. You see this in the clinic – some older people are extremely disease-prone, while others are the picture of health.” David Furman, a senior author on the new study published in Nature Aging, explained.

As the human body evolves, many changes occur in the body, one of which is ageing. With age, the immune system has a likelihood of malfunctioning. It has a slow response against pathogens, but at times, it can target the wrong cells.

According to a hypothesis, the low-degree chronic inflammation spawned by the ageing immune system plays a pivotal role in developing various age-related ailments. However, there is no absolute way to calculate the pace at which an individual is immunologically ageing and their risk of catching any disease.

The research began a decade ago and recruited almost 1,001 subjects with ages ranging from 9-96. The current research called the Immunomes Project is intended to follow the relationship between immune system decline and ageing. 

In the project, an AI algorithm is employed to compute an individual’s immune system age. The resulting measure is labelled as iAge. The older iAge mark is associated with the age-related systematic inflammation and could be responsible for cardiovascular diseases.

“Our inflammatory ageing clock’s ability to detect subclinical accelerated cardiovascular ageing hints at its potential clinical impact,” says Furman. “All disorders are treated best when they’re treated early.”

During the study, the researchers identified an immune molecule called CXCL9 that seemed to manipulate an individual’s iAge more than any other molecules in the human body. It basically pulls all other immune cells to a particular point in the body. The CXCL9 levels drastically go up after the age of 60 and are associated with cardiovascular disease symptoms. In addition, animal tests found inhibiting CXCL9 activity reversed age-related deformities in key blood vessel cells.

This research roots for extensive implications. A blood work measuring a patient’s immune system could assist in tracing those with a higher risk of developing age-related ailments. Doctors could take preventive health measures at the initial phases. The relationship between CXCL9 levels and age-related disease also gives a direction towards new treatments for various health conditions.

“… we have identified a metric for systemic chronic age-related sterile inflammation which tracks with multiple disease phenotypes in multiple cohorts and thus, could be used as a metric for healthy versus unhealthy ageing,” the researchers write in the study. “Our results also demonstrate a link between inflammatory molecules of the immune system and vascular biology.”

The new study was issued in the journal Nature Aging.

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