Biological age tests that measure blood biomarkers, chemical markers on your DNA, or the makeup of your gut bacteria, are the latest obsession of longevity experts like David Sinclair and Mark Hyman. This week Sinclair upped the ante by apparently getting a Prenuvo scan—a full-body MRI scan, which, according to the company’s website, “provides early insight into what is going on under the skin” before diseases present.
Sinclair shared on Instagram that he met up with radiologist and Prenuvo founder, Raj Attariawala, M.D. His post suggests that he had the $2,500 scan, and that Attariawala used the results to estimate the biological age of some of his tissues—just “for fun.”
Notably, the 53-year-old’s prostate was estimated to be as healthy as a 20-year old’s. His thymus (a small gland that makes white blood cells) and bone marrow were also as healthy as a much younger man’s.
What Is a Prenuvo Scan?
Prenuvo aims to make proactive MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans available to patients before symptoms of chronic diseases (such as cancer and fatty liver disease) appear. MRIs use radio waves to create images of different tissues by measuring and mapping how much water is in them.
Typically, your doctor might order an MRI to help them diagnose a disease or injury, or see how well you’re doing with a treatment. Prenuvo’s approach is different. The company’s aim is to catch abnormalities in tissues or organs to diagnose problems before they cause symptoms.
The company claims that its on-demand tests can spot over 500 abnormalities and diseases to support early detection. And that its scan can capture up to 10 times more images with a higher resolution than a standard MRI, which increases accuracy.
A whole-body scan, which includes a spine evaluation plus “tumor detection and insights into stroke risk factors” is $2,499. You can also opt for a 20-minute torso scan for $999 or a 45-minute head and torso scan for $1,799.
Critics of Prenuvo say that healthy people don’t need full-body MRI scans because they could lead to unnecessary and risky additional testing. For example, Bernard Katz, a family-medicine physician at UCLA Health, told Insider that if the MRI showed an abnormality, the doctor might order a biopsy to determine if there are cancerous cells in the area. If the biopsy results are normal, the person might have gone through the stress and expense of the additional tests for naught.
But Sinclair doesn’t seem to be worried about that. Perhaps because his scan reveals he’s a biological whippersnapper
Why Tissue Age Matters
Sinclair shared the estimated age of a few of his tissues. Here’s why they’re important, and how you can increase the health of these tissues—without plopping down any cash for a scan.
Attariawala says Sinclair’s “small, walnut size” prostate is as healthy as a 20-year-old’s. Here’s why that matters: Around half of men aged 51 to 60 have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP)—shorthand for an enlarged prostate gland. Having an enlarged prostate doesn’t increase the risk for prostate cancer, but it can make urinating and ejaculating more difficult, according to Yale Medicine.
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, could reduce your risk, according to Harvard Health.
Sinclair’s thymus, a gland that creates infection-fighting white blood cells called T-cells, is biologically still a teen. Attariawala estimated that Sinclair’s thymus is as healthy as that of a 16- or 17-year-old’s .
The thymus begins to be replaced by fatty tissue after puberty through a process called “involution.” By age 60, thymic involution is mostly completed in men (1). Involution may negatively impact immune function by reducing pathogen resistance (2).
Recently, scientists think they may have found a way to rejuvenate the thymus. The protocol, which includes taking metformin, DHEA, and rhGH, could have longevity-boosting immune effects on the body (3). A boost in T-cells from thymus rejuvenation could support the body’s natural ability to fight disease as you age.
The bone marrow in Sinclair’s femur head has a healthy “grey” color, which indicates that it’s as healthy as a 30-year-old’s.
Your bone marrow loses cellularity as you age, which means that there are less hematopoietic cells in the marrow fat. Hematopoietic cells can convert into red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells, which are a crucial part of your body’s immune system.
Eating a diet rich in protein and taking iron and B vitamins can keep your bone marrow healthy, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Liang, et al (2022). Age related thymic involution: Mechanisms and functional impact.
Fahy, et al (2019). Reversal of epigenetic aging and immunosenescent trends in humans.