Stanford Scientists Develop a Blood Test That Can Predict Which Organ Will Fail First

Not all organs age at the same rate from one person to the next. For example, around one in five healthy adults aged 50 or older have at least one organ that is aging more rapidly. This phenomenon increases the risk of certain diseases and even death.

Human Abdomen Anatomy

Human Abdomen Anatomy

So a team from Stanford Medicine set out to find a way to assess how quickly organs age in order to prevent the diseases they can cause. The result, based on a blood test, was published in the journal Nature.

Read Also: Anti-Aging: HGH Can Reduce Biological Age by One Year and a Half Study Shows

Our organs age at different rates

The researchers initially set out to find a way to estimate the biological age of an organ in healthy people. To do this, they assessed the levels of around 5,000 proteins in the blood using blood samples from 1,400 people aged 20 to 90 years. The researchers noted all the proteins whose genes were four times more activated in one organ than another. As a result, they identified almost 900 specific proteins that could be linked to organ aging.

Using the data collected, the team developed an algorithm that could guess people’s age based on the levels of these proteins. They tested its accuracy by asking it to estimate the age of around 4,000 volunteers from a blood sample. The results were convincing.

“We can estimate the biological age of an organ in an apparently healthy person,” explains the study’s lead author, Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray, in a press release. “This predicts the risk of diseases related to that organ.”

Read Also: Caloric Restriction Enhances Muscle Efficiency and Reduces Age-Related Inflammation, Study Finds

A blood test that can identify aging organs

The researchers then used the proteins they had identified to focus on 11 organs: heart, adipose tissue (fat), lung, immune system, kidney, liver, muscle, pancreas, brain, vascular system, and intestines. They measured the levels of specific proteins in each organ in the participants.

For each of the organs, they were able to define an “age gap”: in other words, the difference between an organ’s actual age and the age that the algorithm calculated from the organ’s specific proteins. The team found that the age differences identified for each of the organs, with the exception of the intestine, were significantly associated with the future risk of death from all causes during 15 years of follow-up.
“Having an organ with accelerated aging (defined as a biological age difference defined by the algorithm for the organ that is greater than the group average for that organ among individuals of the same chronological age) resulted in a 15% to 50% higher risk of mortality over the following 15 years, depending on the affected organ,” the press release states.

“When we compared the biological age of each of these organs for each individual with their counterparts in a large group of people without any obvious serious diseases, we found that 18.4% of people aged 50 and over had at least one organ that aged much faster than average,” Dr. Wyss-Coray explains. “And we found that these people had a higher risk of contracting diseases in that specific organ over the next 15 years.”

One in 60 volunteers had two rapidly aging organs. Their mortality risk was then 6.5 times higher than the others.

Read Also: Looking Older than Your Age Could Be a Sign of Health Problems Study Shows

Accelerated aging: different risks for different organs

The blood test and the algorithm developed showed that the effects of accelerated aging were not the same depending on the organ in question. For example, people whose hearts showed more signs of fatigue than others had a 2.5 times greater risk of suffering heart failure than those whose hearts aged normally. Participants with “older” brains were 1.8 times more likely to show cognitive decline over five years than those with “younger” brains.

“There are also strong associations between an extremely aged kidney score (more than 2 standard deviations above normal) and hypertension and diabetes, as well as between an extremely aged heart score and atrial fibrillation and heart attack,” the authors explain in Stanford press release.

Read Also: Experimental Use of Quercetin and Dasatinib for Anti-aging: Benefits, Dosages, Cost, Risks and Where to Get the Drugs

“If we can reproduce this finding in 50,000 or 100,000 individuals,” warns Dr. Wyss-Coray, “it would mean that by monitoring the health of individual organs in apparently healthy people, we could find organs that suffer accelerated aging and we could treat people before they get sick.”

He believes that the blood test, when fully developed, could enable early detection of the risk of various diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or heart attacks, and early therapeutic interventions.

Final Thoughts

By using the new blood test to identify organ aging early, we open the door for timely, less invasive interventions, primarily through healthy lifestyle changes. This proactive approach could greatly enhance disease management, potentially extending our lifespans and improving our overall well-being.


Oh, H.SH., Rutledge, J., Nachun, D. et al. Organ aging signatures in the plasma proteome track health and disease. Nature 624, 164–172 (2023).

Goldman, B. (2023, December 6). Stanford Medicine-led study finds way to predict which of our organs will fail first. Stanford Medicine News Center.



Want to Stay Informed?

Join the Gilmore Health News Newsletter!

Want to live your best life?

Get the Gilmore Health Weekly newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.

By clicking "Subscribe," I agree to the Gilmore Health and . I also agree to receive emails from Gilmore Health and I understand that I may opt out of Gilmore Health subscriptions at any time.