Alms of the vein: are anti-ageing efforts a possibility?

Anti-ageing: a problem caused by ever improving medical resources and health care, and the reason for an older population. As such, combating this is a goal that we are constantly striving to achieve. There are constant efforts to find a cure for the effects aging has on the bodily systems, and millions are spent to put these into practice. One such effort uses the blood of younger organisms to rejuvenate the bodies and organs of the older generation.

While this does sound like the plot of an 80’s horror film, this area of work has been investigated by multiple labs. The work is based on previous experiments concerning the transfusing blood from young to older mice, and seeing the effect it had on the older animals. As shown in the image below, the technique of linking blood supplies (or parabiosis) goes back as far as the 1800s.

[1] – Nik Spencer/Nature; Chart Data: A. Eggel & T. Wyss-Coray Swiss Med. Wkly 144, W13914 (2014)

Initial efforts: anti-ageing in the lab

In September 2014, a lab in California begun a trial whereby older humans received transfusions of blood from younger people, in the hopes of seeing the effects seen in mice replicated in the patients. The technique was first tested on mice, showing great promise as researchers saw the bodily systems and fur of the mice improve before their eyes (1). This work was one of the first steps in showing that, in a small way, the body clock could be reset.

In 2016, the company Alkahest (2) investigated the hypothesis that plasma from teenage humans could rejuvenate the liver, heart and muscle systems of older mice (3). This looks to be a step up from stitching two mice together, as this created a see-saw system – one appeared younger while one appeared to age a lot faster. To test this idea, the lab took blood from 18-year-old humans and transferred them to 12-month-old mice (the equivalent of 50-year-old humans).

[2] –

After three weeks of twice weekly plasma injections, their results were compared with 3-week-old and untreated 12-month-old mice. Minami, the lead scientist on the project, confirmed their findings when she observed that in the treated mice “Young human plasma improves cognition… Their memory was preserved.” There was also evidence of new neurons in the hippocampus of the treated mice (a process known as neurogenesis) – further evidence the process had been successful. However, there is still work being done that is looking at the specific factors present in younger blood that allows this to happen.

The protein that caused it all?

Looking at the other side of the coin, research done in early 2017 by Hanadie Yousef (4), from Stanford University in California, looked at the protein that could be causing the harmful effects seen in the older population.

Protein VCAM1 PDB 1ij9.png

[3] –

The levels of VCAM1, the protein in question (seen above), are seen to be 30% higher in the over 65s than in those under 25. To be sure this was the right protein, young mice were infected with VCAM1 and blood plasma from 60-year-old humans, and the effects observed. Sure enough, premature aging was seen in the subjects. Yousef is currently working on a compound that looks to block the effects of VCAM1 on aging. However, until this is finalised plasma injections are the way forward. One advantage to the work she is doing is that VCAM1 is present in the mouse blood-brain barrier, so there is no need to try and bypass it.

The future of this area

This recent work has caught the attention of the wider scientific community, including researchers from Ohio State University and The Mental Health Institute in Maryland. It certainly stands to potentially go a long way towards solving many of the ever present problems faced by an aging population.





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One Response to “Alms of the vein: are anti-ageing efforts a possibility?”
  1. We all try to combat time but we should also remember to enjoy the time we have

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