Does young blood hold the secret to anti-aging?


Can the ageing process be reversed by putting young blood into older people?

In the past few years, a number of labs have revived parabiosis, especially in the field of ageing research. By joining the circulatory system of an old mouse to that of a young mouse, scientists have produced some remarkable results. In the heart, brain, muscles and almost every other tissue examined, the blood of young mice seems to bring new life to ageing organs, making old mice stronger, smarter and healthier. It even makes their fur shinier. Now these labs have begun to identify the components of young blood that are responsible for these changes.

A clinical trial in California became the first to test the benefits of young blood in older people with Alzheimer's disease. The findings suggest that a certain component in young blood is important in maintaining mental acuity. "Part of what makes this exciting is that it suggests there's more communication between the blood and brain than we've thought," Castellano, an instructor in neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine, said. The researchers found evidence that this component might be a protein called TIMP2, which is present in high levels in cord plasma, but declines with age.

Researchers made it very clear - they don't claim to have found the protein that's responsible for brain aging, but they now have a better understanding of what's going on in the brain. No one, however, is saying that cord blood could be a magic bullet against Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Instead, the findings might set the stage for new drugs that target the dementia process, said Joseph Castellano.

So, for now, young blood is not the secret to halting the aging process entirely, and it may never be, as aging is an opaque and complex blend of molecular pathways.

Joseph Castellano, Ph.D., instructor, neurology and neurological sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Marc L. Gordon, M.D., professor, Litwin-Zucker Centre for Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, and chief, neurology, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oak.

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