Gilchrist: Study: Young blood reverses aging?
October 24, 2012
The latest research on aging sounds like a creepy Halloween story, but it may be great news for Baby Boomers. Neuroscientists from Stanford think unidentified factors in the blood plasma of young mice spur a 20 percent increase in the connections between brain cells of old mice, and may stop the progress of Alzheimer’s. Kim Jong-Il famously injected himself with the blood of 12-year-old virgins. Keith Richards receives frequent blood transfusions. As you well know, both men are wildly handsome physical specimens except that one of them is undead and I hear that Kim Jong-Il isn’t doing so well, either. Are you a Baby Boomer with pesky memory problems? Ask your doctor if the blood of the young is right for you.Neuroscientists at Stanford University stitched the circulatory system of a young mouse to an old mouse. Sewing two creatures together is called heterochronic parabiosis. (Don’t try this at home.) The Stanford scientists discovered that key chemical factors in the young mouse’s blood radically improved the learning, memory and stem cell count in the older mouse’s brain. Saul Villeda of Stanford presented his results a week ago at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. The old mouse grew younger while the young mouse shriveled up like a dried pea. The old mouse was last seen riding his bike through the Alps in record time. Saul Villeda predicted that in the future, people in their 40s and 50s could enjoy the rejuvenating chemical factors in a teenager’s blood as a preventative against Alzheimer’s and the degenerative effects of aging. “Do I think that giving young (teenage) blood to the elderly could have an effect on a human? I’m thinking more and more it might,” Villeda said to The Guardian newspaper.Excellent, Smithers. My neighbor, an irritating 15-year old, recently stole my Saint-Jerry Garcia-in-a-bathtub-grotto statue from my front yard. Come here you little blood bag; I’ve finally found a use for you. Back to our research from Stanford: Villeda reported, “One of the main things that changes with ageing are these connections, there are a lot less of them as we get older. That is thought to underlie memory impairment – if you have less connections, neurons aren’t communicating, all of a sudden you have [problems] in learning and memory.”This research is founded on earlier work by Villeda and his colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine that revealed that the brains of young mice began to age more rapidly when exposed to blood from an older mouse. I just spit my Count Chocula cereal across the table. Where do I keep the post-it notes? Right. Note to self; do not let wizened old crusts (most of my relatives) inject me with their blood. The latest study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Researchers haven’t identified the chemical factors in young blood that rejuvenate old brains. For more about Saul Villeda’s blood plasma research and other exciting discoveries in neuroscience, visit the website of the Society of Neuroscience at http://www.sfn.org/home.aspx.Micaela Gilchrist’s novels are published by Simon & Schuster and by Scribner and have been optioned for film by Paramount Studios. She lives in Summit County. Email her at MicaelaMGilchrist@comcast.net.