After transfusing young mouse blood into older mice, researchers found that the more mature set got sharper, stronger, and exercised longer – like a fountain of youth.
The mice in the trio of studies published Sunday in the journals Nature Medicine and Science were roughly the equivalent of people in their 20s and 60s, and researchers say the results could be applicable to human longevity in the future, according to The Boston Globe
In the spotlight is a specific protein known as growth differentiation factor 11, or GDF11, that is found in the blood of the younger mice but is lacking in the elders.
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"We do think that, at least in principle, there will be a way to reverse some of the decline of aging with a single protein," said Harvard professor of stem cell and regenerative biology Lee Rubin.
In the paper published by Rubin's team, the scientists argue that mental ability declined in older mice due to the deterioration of blood vessels. Decreased blood flow in turn inhibits the formation of new nerve tissue in the brain.
Upon injecting the older mice with GDF11, the researchers found that old mice were once again able to detect the scent of mint they had lost with age — a development attributable to increased neurogenesis in the brain.
Scientists also found that the blood transfusions increased the mice's "satellite cells" responsible for muscle tissue repair. This in-turn let to observations that the mice were more active. They exhibited greater grip strength and ran longer on the treadmill wheel.
Lastly, the third study found improved memory among older mice who received infusions from younger mice. They were better able to remember how to navigate a maze than the control group, which was infused with blood from other older mice.
All three studies were promising, and one of the study authors wrote, "GDF11 should be regarded as a new molecular regulator of mammalian aging with potentially broad-reaching applications." It's very likely that these studies could someday inform anti-aging therapies for humans.
The results also came with a warning, however.
"Don't try this at home," said Saul Villeda of the University of California, San Francisco. Even if the same results occur in humans, a number of other things could be transfused that are not healthy.
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