Smaller organ mass with greater age, except for heart

Qing He, Stanley Heshka, Jeanine Albu, Lawrence Boxt, Norman Krasnow, Marinos Elia, Dympna Gallagher

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51 Scopus citations


Autopsy/cadaver data indicate that many organs and tissues are smaller in the elderly compared with young adults; however, in vivo data are lacking. The aim of this study was to determine whether the mass of specific high-metabolic-rate organs is different with increasing age, using MRI. Seventy-five healthy women (41 African-Americans and 34 Caucasians, age range 19-88 yr) and 36 men (8 African-Americans and 28 Caucasians, age range 19-84 yr) were studied. MRI-derived in vivo measures of brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and spleen were acquired. Left ventricular mass (LVM) was measured by either echocardiography or cardiac gated MRI. Total body fat mass and fat-free mass (FFM) were measured with a whole body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scanner. Multiple regression analysis was used to investigate the association between the organ mass and age after adjustment for weight and height (or DXA measures of FFM), race, sex, and interactions among these variable. No statistically significant interaction was found among age, sex, and race in any regression model. Significant negative relationships between organ mass and age were found for brain (P < 0.0001), kidneys (P = 0.01), liver (P = 0.001), and spleen (P < 0.0001). A positive relationship between LVM and age was found after adjustment for FFM (P = 0.037). These findings demonstrate that age has a significant effect on brain, kidneys, liver, spleen, and heart mass. The age effect was independent of race and sex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1780-1784
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnicity
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Organs
  • Race


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