- Thursday, 18 October 2012
Blood transfusions from young to old improve elderly brains, scientists have said.
Experiments found giving ageing mice blood from younger animals rejuvenated connections between brain cells and improved memory.
The treatment meant 18-month-old animals performed as well in memory tests as those of only four months.
Mice usually live to between 18 months and two years.
And if proved to be safe and successful, the treatment could be used to stave off the effects of old age.
A conference was told middle-aged people could be given regular jabs of blood donated by those in their 20s.
Diseases such as Alzheimer's could also be held off by the treatment
Researcher Saul Villeda told the Society for Neuroscience's annual conference in New Orleans: "Do I think that giving young blood could have an effect on a human?
"I'm thinking more and more that it might.
"It's not a drug that will have deleterious effects. It's just blood. We do it all the time for blood transfusions."
Scientists from Stanford University in the US 'sewed together' two mice of different ages, creating connections between their veins and arteries.
This allowed young blood to flow into the older animal's body and vice versa.
The younger animals' brains appeared to age but in the older animals, young blood increased and improved the number of connections between brain cells.
In tests, the older mice performed just as well as the younger ones. The treatment is now being test on mice with an Alzheimer's-like disease.
It may also be possible to identify compounds in the young blood that are rejuvenating the brain - and create a pill.
Professor Andrew Randall, a brain disease expert from Exeter and Bristol Universities, said: "Although this may suggest that Dracula author Bram Stoker had ideas way ahead of his time, temporarily plumbing teenagers' blood supplies into those of their great-grandparents does not seem a particularly feasible future therapy for cognitive decline in ageing.
"Instead this fascinating work suggests there may be significant benefit in working out what the 'good stuff' is in the high octane young blood, so that we can provide just those key components to the elderly."
Professor Chris Mason, an expert in regenerative medicine from University College London, added: "The important questions are; what is in the blood of the younger mice that impacts the ageing process, and is it applicable to humans?
"Even if the finding leads only to a drug that prevents, rather than reverses the normal effects of ageing on the brain, the impact upon future generation will be substantial - potentially outweighing other wonder drugs such as penicillin."
Dr Villeda said: "Our findings open the possibility of utilising young blood towards future therapeutic interventions aimed at reversing cognitive impairments in the elderly.
"It now becomes a promising prospect to test whether this extends beyond normal ageing towards reversing cellular and cognitive decline in those suffering from age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease."
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