Scientists may have found the fountain of youth: in the veins of young people. The NYT reports that scientists have discovered that older mice regain strength and resiliency, in both their muscles and brains, after receiving blood from younger mice. One study, in Nature Medicine, studied the effects of young blood on the growth of neurons in the old mice’s brains. Researchers delivered the blood to the old mice in two ways: via parabiosis (stitching together a young mouse and an old mouse) and blood plasma injections. More:
After parabiosis, Dr. [Saul] Villeda and his colleagues found that the neurons in the hippocampus of the old mice sprouted new connections. They then moved beyond parabiosis by removing the cells and platelets from the blood of young mice and injecting the plasma that remained into old mice. That injection caused the old mice to perform far better on memory tests.
Another study, in Science, looked at skeletal muscles and hearts:
To pinpoint the molecules responsible for the change, Dr. Wagers and her colleagues screened the animals’ blood and found that a protein called GDF11 was abundant in young mice and scarce in old ones. To see if GDF11 was crucial to the parabiosis effect, the scientists produced a supply of the protein and injected it into old mice. Even on its own, GDF11 rejuvenated their hearts.
Dr. Wagers and her colleagues wondered whether GDF11 was responsible for the rejuvenation of other tissues. In the current issue of the journal Science, they report an experiment on skeletal muscle in mice. They found that GDF11 revived stem cells in old muscles, making old mice stronger and increasing their endurance.
This research is in its early stages, but if scientists find that young blood can reverse aging in humans as well as mice, we could be in for another resurgence of boomer greed. Over the years boomers have sucked millennials dry financially in all sorts of ways: by promoting policies that shifted wealth towards them and away from the young; by resisting reform to entitlement programs; by hogging all the job growth; and by supporting reductions in spending that benefits the young (like aid to public colleges).
Now they could be out for millennials’ blood. Young people don’t expect to be looking up the local blood bank instead of the local job bank. But since they’ve got nothing in the bank, maybe it’s worth considering a new way to pay off those college loans.