Researchers have made a remarkable discovery when it comes to aging. A U.S. team discovered that giving older mice transfusions of younger blood improved their brain function.
The researchers from Harvard and Stanford universities published their findings in the journals Nature Medicine and Science. In their study, they gave older mice with mental decline the blood of younger mice. Afterward, the older mice were able to navigate a maze as quickly as the younger mice. The scientists discovered that the transfused blood was acting on the hippocampus, the part of the brain that mice use to navigate. As well as being a crucial part of the brain for rodents, the hippocampus is important for humans as well, allowing you to find where you parked your car, for example.
The researchers also tried the experiment in reverse, surgically connecting two-month-old mice to 15-month-old mice and 21-month-old mice, respectively. When young mice were connected with the middle-aged mice, no changes in the young mice were detected. However, when the young mice were connected with the older mice, the researchers found that the young mice produced less brain cells. So while young blood benefits older mice, it seems that old blood has a negative effect on younger mice.
As mice and other animals get older, they lose blood flow in their brain. However, the addition of young blood helped to make existing blood vessels healthier in the older mice. Researchers think this could be related to the protein GDF11. Previous studies had linked GDF11 with healthier hearts, and addition of GDF11 helped those mice exercise better as well as improving their sense of smell. Although GDF11 may be the protein at work in the young blood, researchers caution that they still need further studies to isolate the factor in young blood that is benefiting older mice.
Benefiting from young blood is still in the research stage. While it may not be practical for people to go out for a blood transfusion, researchers are hoping that they will be able to offer young blood treatments in the future with easier methods. Once they isolate the factor in young blood that is benefiting the animals, one day they may be able to offer anti-aging treatments in an injection or pill. The next step is for the researchers to seek approval to test their methods on human subjects.
Scientists hope that studies like this will lead to future treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease and other ailments associated with mental decline in older patients. The research could also eventually lead to better treatments for everything from heart health in older patients to improving skin health for cosmetic reasons. The treatments have potential to help aging patients in a myriad of ways as they reverse aging.
Mary Smith from Direct Doctor Supply finds the research encouraging. “If these scientists can find the key to reversing aging, we could move from using dermal fillers to improve the look of wrinkled skin to using blood to make the skin actually younger. Plus the possibilities for general health are endless.”
Some spas already offer the so-called “Vampire facial”. In this procedure, doctors insert needles with the patient’s own blood into their face. The belief is that the platelets in the blood stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, improving the health of the skin and reducing wrinkles. However, no procedures are currently approved using younger blood in a similar fashion.
The hope is that future studies will build on the current research to find out if young blood can help improve human cognition as much as in mice. Researchers are currently seeking approval for human trials.