Biological age can provide insights into how well a person is aging, including the risk for certain health issues and diseases. However, there is currently no universally accepted method to measure biological age.
In a groundbreaking study, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have demonstrated that a specialized eye scanner can be used to reveal an individual’s biological age. The scanner picks up spectroscopic signals from proteins in the eye lens to measure aging on a molecular level.
According to the experts, chronological age does not adequately account for individual variation in the rate of biological aging.
Study co-author Dr. Lee E. Goldstein is an associate professor of Neurology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at BUSM.
“The absence of clinical tools and metrics to quantitatively evaluate how each person is aging at the molecular level represents a major impediment to understanding aging and maximizing health throughout life,” explained Dr. Goldstein.
“The lens contains proteins that accumulate aging-related changes throughout life. These lens proteins provide a permanent record of each person’s life history of aging. Our eye scanner can decode this record of how a person is aging at the molecular level.”
The researchers believe their findings pave the way for a potentially transformative clinical tool to assess and track biological aging in humans.
“The framework for clinical implementation of this technology to measure molecular aging is similar to other recently adopted clinical biomarkers, including PET brain imaging for Alzheimer’s disease, bone densitometry for osteoporosis and serum blood tests for diabetes mellitus,” said Dr. Goldstein.
Numerous metrics have been proposed and tested to monitor human aging, but no marker has been identified that can noninvasively tap into the molecular mechanisms involved. This is an advantage of the eye scanning system, which may ultimately be used for long-term health monitoring.
“Eye scanning technology that probes lens protein affords a rapid, noninvasive, objective technique for direct measurement of molecular aging that can be easily, quickly, and safely implemented at the point of care,” said Dr. Goldstein. “Such a metric affords potential for precision medical care across the lifespan.”
The study is published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.