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New Device to Estimate Immunological Age

A new tool gauges the degree of chronic inflammation in a person’s body to determine their immunological Age. Scientists report this number hints at when and whether that person will become frail or develop heart disease later in life. The study was published in the Journal Nature Aging.According to the new study, the tool, called iAge, uses a type of artificial intelligence (AI) called a deep neural network to analyze blood-borne markers of inflammation. These markers include proteins called cytokines, which deliver messages between immune cells and to other cells in the body.

Using blood samples from 1,001 people, Age 8 to 96, the team uncovered patterns between these circulating inflammatory markers and various related conditions. Among the 50 cytokines they assessed, the team flagged a handful that seemed to hold the strongest influence over a person’s iAge score; in particular, a cytokine called CXCL9 stood out as the most significant contributor.

The substance usually rallies immune cells to the site of an infection, but among the study participants, CXCL9 levels began to rapidly climb around 60, on average. In follow-up experiments with cells in lab dishes, the team linked this Age-related cytokine spike to functional problems in endothelial cells, the main components of blood vessel walls.

The new study stems from the Stanford 1000 Immunomes Project, an effort to understand how signatures of chronic inflammation change as people Age. Scientists collected blood samples from people of different Age between 2009 and 2016, then ran those samples through a bunch of tests, assessing cytokine levels, gene activation and immune responses in the collected cells.

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