Is The Blood Of The Young The Fountain Of Youth
By John Diaz
Who hasn’t at one point or another enjoyed the guilty pleasure of a film about a perhaps misunderstood brooding bloodsucker giving into the temptation of a certain substance flowing through the veins of a ridiculously attractive nubile victim. Well, new research suggests maybe vampires had it right all along, a regular dose of youthful blood and you can be young and forever beautiful.
As far back as the 1950”s Clive M. McCay of Cornell University tested the notion of transferring the blood of a young mice into old ones. A procedure called parabiosis (stitching together skin on the flanks) that through new blood vessel formation allowed blood to flow between them. Upon a later necropsy Dr. McCay and his colleagues found that the cartilage of the old mice looked more youthful then it would have otherwise. The how or why was not understood at that time.
In the early 2000’s scientists realized that stem cells do not die off in aging tissue. Perhaps the decline is a failure of the signals they receive. The question would be what signals would old stem cells receive from young blood? In 2005 Dr. Thomas A Rando from Stanford University revived Dr. McCay’s experiments to find out. The mice were joined for five weeks then examined. The old mice exhibited improved healing and new cells in muscle tissue and organs. The old mice were able to navigate mazes faster and run longer on treadmills. Conversely, the young mice showed signs of premature aging.
Dr. Amy J. Wagers a member of Rando’s team at Stanford continued her research when she left for the Harvard Institute. Dr. Wager’s and her new team found a protein (GDF11) that is abundant in young mouse blood and scarce in the old. When GDF11 was injected directly they found it revived muscle tissue making old mice stronger with more endurance and behave more like young mice.
In 2011 Dr. Saul Villeda while at Stanford found that when old mice received the young blood they had a burst of new neurons. These neurons sprouted new connections. The experiment was repeated without the cells using only the plasma. The results were the same. This suggests there may be more than one protein molecule at work here. Tony Wyss-Coray lead author of the Stanford study has founded a company “Alkahest” to study therapeutic implications. He plans to dive into human studies immediately. The first trial involves Alzheimer patients.
While some will be driven to cure others will obviously reach for immortality. Perhaps its human nature to always want more. Its why some exercise, eat calorie restricted diets and take copious amounts of supplements, all to see if we can live longer at least a bit longer.
Still there are concerns and a lot needs to be understood. If GDF11 or its human equivalent works, what’s an effective dose, is it safe and is there a concern for cell proliferation leading to cancers. If we have learned anything about human physiology it’s that nothing is as easy as it seems. Remember Resveratrol, the studies had to be stopped in the early stages due to severe side effects. Still when added to telomere research studies it begs one to wonder if the fountain isn’t at hand or at least too far off. Imagine all this and without having to worry about turning to ash in the sun. It’s enough to make a vampire envious.