Young Blood Recharges Old Mice Brains Say Stanford Researchers

Posted on May 5, 2014

Stanford researchers have found that young blood can restore mental capabilities in old mice. The researchers say the discovery could "spell a new paradigm for recharging old brains." The study was published here in the May 4 issue of Nature Medicine. The Telegraph refers to the concept of reversing aging by using a transfusion of youthful blood as "vampire therapy."

Mice had their circulatory systems surgically conjoined for the study. The mice pairs, known as parabiotic mice, share a pooled blood supply. The scientists found changes in the hippocampi of old mice that had their circulatory system paired with young mice. The hippocampi of older mice that had been conjoined to younger mice (old-young parabiotic pairs) more closely resembled those of younger mice than did the hippocampi of older mice paired with old mice. Hippocampal nerve cells from older members of these old-young pairs also showed an enhanced ability to strengthen the connections between one nerve cell and another.

The New York Times reports that a second study showed the parabiosis spurred the growth of blood vessels to the brain in older mice in the old-young parabiotic pairs. The GDF11 protein has been linked to at least some of the rejuvenation of blood vessels and neurons in the older mice.

Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, the senior author of the study and a professor of neurology and neurological sciences, says in a statement, "It was as if these old brains were recharged by young blood."

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

Stanford researchers plan to conduct human trials. Not everyone is confident this will help with Alzheimer's in humans. DR. Eric Karran, directory of research at Alzheimer's Research UK tells BBC News, "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."