Stanford organ aging study spawns new longevity startup

Teal Omics founded after researchers develop algorithm that measures how fast individual organs are aging.

A study led by researchers from Stanford Medicine, published this week in Nature, has unveiled a new method to predict the biological aging rates of individual organs. By analyzing specific proteins in blood samples, scientists were able to determine the relative age of 11 organs, including the heart, lungs, brain and kidneys.

Encompassing 5,678 participants, the study aimed to shed light on how organs age and the subsequent implications for human health. Results showed that organs age at different rates among individuals, and those with accelerated organ aging face an elevated risk of associated diseases and mortality. The researchers also suggest that approximately one in five apparently healthy adults aged 50 or older carries at least one organ aging at a notably accelerated rate.

The study’s lead authors, Stanford grad students Hamilton Oh and Jarod Rutledge, along with senior author Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, a Stanford neurology professor, have co-founded Teal Omics to explore the commercialization of their work. The startup’s stated mission is to “accelerate the development of novel biomarkers and therapeutics that will enable precision medicine aimed at preventing age-related diseases.”

Stanford organ aging study spawns new longevity startup
Tony Wyss-Coray is professor of neurology and the D H Chen Professor II at Stanford Medicine.

“We can estimate the biological age of an organ in an apparently healthy person,” said Wyss-Coray in a Stanford press announcement. “That, in turn, predicts a person’s risk for disease related to that organ.”

Using commercially available technologies and a custom algorithm, the researchers assessed thousands of proteins in participants’ blood, identifying nearly 900 organ-specific proteins associated with accelerated aging. The team then trained a machine-learning algorithm to estimate individuals’ ages based on these proteins.

Rapid organ aging linked to mortality

The researchers calculated an “age gap” for each of the 11 organs, representing the difference between the organ’s actual age and its estimated age based on the algorithm’s calculations. Age gaps for 10 of the 11 organs were linked to increased risk of death from all causes over a 15-year follow-up period.

“When we compared each of these organs’ biological age for each individual with its counterparts among a large group of people without obvious severe diseases, we found that 18.4% of those age 50 or older had at least one organ aging significantly more rapidly than the average,” said Wyss-Coray.

Individuals with accelerated aging in specific organs faced a 15% to 50% higher mortality risk over the next 15 years, depending on the affected organ. For example, those with accelerated heart aging exhibited a 2.5 times higher risk of heart failure, while individuals with accelerated brain aging faced an increased likelihood of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease progression.

The researchers believe the study’s findings offer a potential avenue for early intervention and personalized health management based on individual organ aging patterns.

“If we can reproduce this finding in 50,000 or 100,000 individuals, it will mean that by monitoring the health of individual organs in apparently healthy people, we might be able to find organs that are undergoing accelerated aging in people’s bodies, and we might be able to treat people before they get sick,” said Wyss-Coray. “Identifying the organ-specific proteins that best indicate excessive organ aging and, consequently, elevated disease risk could also lead to new drug targets.”

Stay tuned for our interview with Teal Omics in the coming weeks!

Photograph: illustratoren.de/TobiasWuestefeld