New blood 'recharges old brain', mouse study suggests

Lab mouse Could the elixir of youth be a substance found in blood?

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Researchers in the US say they might have discovered how to combat and even reverse some processes of ageing, at least in mice.

Injecting the blood of young mice into older rodents boosted their brainpower, a study found.

Scientists at Stanford University plan to carry out trials in people in the hope that new treatments for dementia can be developed.

A UK dementia research charity said the human significance was unknown.

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There are factors present in blood from young mice that can recharge an old mouse's brain so that it functions more like a younger one”

End Quote Dr Tony Wyss-Coray Stanford University School of Medicine

In the study, published in Nature Medicine, mice aged 18 months were given injections of the fluid part of blood (plasma) taken from mice aged three months.

The injected mice performed better on memory tests than mice of the same age that had not been given blood plasma.

"There are factors present in blood from young mice that can recharge an old mouse's brain so that it functions more like a younger one," said Dr Tony Wyss-Coray of Stanford University School of Medicine.

"We're working intensively to find out what those factors might be and from exactly which tissues they originate."

He said it was not known whether the same was true in humans, but a clinical trial was planned.

Alzheimer's Research UK said the treatment rejuvenated certain aspects of learning and memory in mice, but was "of unknown significance to humans".

"This research, while very interesting, does not investigate the type of cognitive impairment that is seen in Alzheimer's disease, which is not an inevitable consequence of ageing," said Dr Eric Karran, director of research at the charity.

Muscle boost

Meanwhile, two studies by a separate team have shed more light on how young blood may benefit the old, in mice at least.

Old and young A small clinical trial in humans could take place in the future
The blood vessels of old mice were rejuvenated (Image: Lida Katsimpardi) The blood vessels of old mice were rejuvenated (Image: Lida Katsimpardi)

A substance in the blood of mice previously shown to have an anti-aging effect on heart muscle, also boosted brain cells, according to a Harvard team.

The research, published in Science, found the blood factor encouraged the growth of brain cells in old mice, and restored their sense of smell.

The same chemical also boosted muscle power in aged mice, the researchers found.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    My guess is that with the correct stem cell engineering, this effect can be created without needing to harvest blood from young people. Stem cell research has come a long way. It is the wave of the future. Instead of taking drugs to avoid symptoms of diseases, we will get stem cell therapy to cure those diseases. If you own stem cell stock when this happens . . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    You people going on about ageing population et cetera do realise this is about combating dementia, aka extending the length of a persons mentally healthy life, this research won't make people live much longer, but it could help with improving the time that people have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    This story is exactly what the lure of stem cell therapy is.. Injecting people with their own youthful stem cells allows them to be infected with their own youth. Banking of personal stem cells is in infancy but may become a mainstay of future medicine. Can young stem cells populate the body reversing aging, looks promisining. When are we two old to bank our personal vaccine against aging?

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    If this research is indeed true, the benefits might only last a couple of days max and then what? - Everything would return to normal again when the donated blood cells die out. I find it hard to believe that this could do any permanent good- and I think most people would agree that having people effectively 'addicted' to blood is in no way helpful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I'm sure I read recently that scientists are experimenting with creating artifical blood?

    That sounds great for the supply of blood (less reliance on donors) and, if they acheive full and safe production, for the potential treatment for Dementia and many other illnesses.


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