On July 2, 2024, the journal Cell Metabolism published an article titled "Thermal facial image analyses reveal quantitative hallmarks of aging and metabolic diseases." This study explores the relationship between facial regions and disease, introducing the ThermoFace model, an aging clock designed for early disease detection using a simple, non-invasive method.


Credit:Thermal facial image analyses reveal quantitative hallmarks of aging and metabolic diseases.

Research Origins and Objectives

The study was conducted by Dr. Han Jingdong and his team at the Center for Quantitative Biology, Peking University, China. Known for their significant contributions to aging research, the team previously used 3D facial structures to predict biological age and aging speed, closely linked to chronic disease risks. This prior work inspired the team to investigate other facial features, specifically temperature, to predict health status and aging speed.

Study Design and Findings

The team collected thermal images of 2,811 Han Chinese individuals aged 20-90 years. Using these images, they developed the ThermoFace method to automatically process and analyze them, creating models for age and disease prediction. Key facial areas such as the nose, eyes, and cheeks were found to have temperature variations closely related to age and health.

According to the study, core body temperature tends to decrease with age, with the nose temperature dropping faster than other facial areas. Thus, a higher nose temperature indicates a younger thermal age. Conversely, the eye area temperature increases with age, and individuals with metabolic disorders show faster thermal aging and higher eye temperatures. Hypertensive patients were found to have higher cheek temperatures.

Further analysis linked elevated temperatures around the eyes and cheeks to inflammation-related cellular activity, suggesting this as a potential cause for temperature increases in these areas. The age-related decline in nose temperature might be associated with vascular aging, though this remains unconfirmed.

Dr. Han noted, "The relationship between body temperature and metabolic diseases is significant, but previous facial imaging models couldn't predict these."

Implications and Future Research

In a deeper exploration of facial temperature changes, the team assessed the impact of exercise on thermal age. Twenty-three participants who jumped rope 800 times daily saw their thermal age reduce by five years in just two weeks.

The team plans to further investigate the relationship between facial thermal imaging and other conditions such as sleep disorders and cardiovascular issues. Dr. Han believes facial thermal imaging holds significant potential for early disease diagnosis and intervention.

However, this research currently focuses on Han Chinese individuals in mainland China. To gain more authoritative results, expanding clinical trials to include diverse populations worldwide is necessary. We look forward to Dr. Han's team achieving more significant breakthroughs in this promising field.


Thermal facial image analyses reveal quantitative hallmarks of aging and metabolic diseases.Yu, Zhengqing et al.Cell Metabolism, Volume 36, Issue 7, 1482 - 1493.e7.