Could Young Blood Literally Rejuvenate An Aging Brain?
In mice, the answer seems to be yes: Recent studies reveal improvements in memory and brain cell growth in older mice who received blood or plasma from younger mice.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
Recent studies published in Nature Medicine and Science respectively describe what happens when old mice get a shot of youth in the form of blood from younger mice. In one study, Stanford researchers injected plasma from three-month-olds into the bodies of 18-month-olds and discovered that the older mice performed better on memory tests than those of their peers who had not received the plasma. In two other studies, Harvard scientists learned that a factor found in the blood of young mice "encouraged the growth of brain cells in old mice, [restored] their sense of smell, [and] boosted muscle power."
What's the Big Idea?
Setting aside various popular science fiction and horror scenarios for the moment: If these effects can be replicated in humans -- the Stanford team is planning a clinical trial next -- it could lead to new treatments for dementia and other diseases commonly associated with aging. Meanwhile, Dr. Eric Karran of Alzheimer's Research UK says that the findings, "while very interesting, [do] not investigate the type of cognitive impairment that is seen in Alzheimer's disease, which is not an inevitable consequence of aging."
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