Age prediction from human blood plasma using proteomic and small RNA data: a comparative analysis

Aging (Albany NY). 2023 Jun 20;15(12):5240-5265. doi: 10.18632/aging.204787. Epub 2023 Jun 20.


Aging clocks, built from comprehensive molecular data, have emerged as promising tools in medicine, forensics, and ecological research. However, few studies have compared the suitability of different molecular data types to predict age in the same cohort and whether combining them would improve predictions. Here, we explored this at the level of proteins and small RNAs in 103 human blood plasma samples. First, we used a two-step mass spectrometry approach measuring 612 proteins to select and quantify 21 proteins that changed in abundance with age. Notably, proteins increasing with age were enriched for components of the complement system. Next, we used small RNA sequencing to select and quantify a set of 315 small RNAs that changed in abundance with age. Most of these were microRNAs (miRNAs), downregulated with age, and predicted to target genes related to growth, cancer, and senescence. Finally, we used the collected data to build age-predictive models. Among the different types of molecules, proteins yielded the most accurate model (R² = 0.59 ± 0.02), followed by miRNAs as the best-performing class of small RNAs (R² = 0.54 ± 0.02). Interestingly, the use of protein and miRNA data together improved predictions (R2 = 0.70 ± 0.01). Future work using larger sample sizes and a validation dataset will be necessary to confirm these results. Nevertheless, our study suggests that combining proteomic and miRNA data yields superior age predictions, possibly by capturing a broader range of age-related physiological changes. It will be interesting to determine if combining different molecular data types works as a general strategy to improve future aging clocks.

Keywords: age prediction; aging; human blood plasma; proteomics; small RNAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Plasma
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteomics*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • MicroRNAs
  • Proteins