Eye scanner that determines biological age can help doctors give better treatment options for patients
Biological age indicates how your body has changed over time and has little to do with how long you have lived. It can help determine how your body is changing at the molecular level
We are looking at a future where doctors use a simple scanner to identify a person's body age. In a new study, researchers have developed an eye scanner that identifies biological aging — which holds a record of an individual's health. The technology, which peers into the eye and examines the lens, needs to be tested in large trials.
Biological age indicates how your body has changed over time and has little to do with how long you have lived or your chronological age. The latter is used to measure a person's risk for several diseases, death, loss of body functions such as hearing and memory. Chronological aging, according to the researchers, is imperfect because some people age faster or slower than the others.
"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," the corresponding author Dr Lee E. Goldstein, said in a statement. He is an associate professor of neurology, pathology & laboratory medicine, psychiatry, and ophthalmology at Boston University.
The eye-scanning technology developed is a rapid and objective technique that directly measures biological aging. What is more, it can be implemented easily, quickly, and safely at the point of care, according to the Boston researchers.
Why is biological aging important?
It measures the damage accumulated in the body, which is influenced by a person's genes and lifestyle, including food choices. For instance, a person aged 28 who gorges on high-fat food and skips exercise is likely to age faster than their counterparts who eat healthy and stay fit.
Some scientists believe that tracking biological aging can help doctors provide better treatment options for patients. So they are trying to design a simple test or an instrument that could accurately measure it. Goldstein and his team set out to do the same.
How does the eye scanner work?
In the past, experts have tried to measure biological age by looking at several proteins. However, none of them are accurate enough to track it. They are not very efficient and are ill-suited for personalized long-term medical care, the team said. So in their study, the team designed a scanner that probes an eye protein. It keeps a record of the damages over time. "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," Goldstein explained.
Researchers believe the eye scanner has the potential to transform healthcare. "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," adds Dr Goldstein, who also holds an appointment at Boston University College of Engineering.
The findings appear online in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.