US researchers have honed in on a therapy that may be able to reverse the aging processes that occur in the body. Three separate reports published in major journals have raised hopes. The researchers have demonstrated the rejuvenating effects of chemicals that are naturally present in the blood of young mice.
They have found that infusions of young blood reversed the signs that are related to aging. The scientists have identified one chemical present in the blood that seems to reverse the damage which is caused by the aging process.
The researchers have stated that the studies may only have been done on mice, but they believe that the results could be the same for humans. A clinical trial is set to commence during the next three to five years.
The author of the study carried out at the University of California, Saul Villeda, stated that the evidence is so compelling that human application is warranted.
Aging is viewed as one of the main risk factors for a range of health conditions, such as dementia, cancer and heart disease. As the population grows older, the number of people suffering from these conditions increases. A technique to slow down or reverse age-related damage could prevent a crisis in the public health systems as the occurrence of several diseases will be delayed.
The studies used a similar method to investigate the anti-aging effect of young blood. Young and old mice were paired up and joined in a fashion similar to conjoined twins. To achieve this, researchers made a small incision along the side of each mouse and allowed the wounds to heal in a manner that joined the two together. This allowed the mice to share blood supplies.
Saul Villeda stated that he discovered that the blood from the three-month-old mouse reversed some of the age-related effects in the 18-month old mouse’s brain. The animals experienced growth of strong neural connections.
A mouse aged 18 months is considered to be at the same aging level as a 70-year old human.
Villeda injected blood without the white cells taken from the young mice into the older ones. He stated that the infusions had a massive impact on the performance of the animals. The aged mice that were given the youthful plasma were able to find their way around a water maze in the same way a six-month-old mouse could. During an experiment to test their memory in a threatening environment, they reacted in the same way as a three-month-old.
Villeda stated that a protein named Creb, which acts as a brain regulator, is responsible for the anti-aging effects. The young plasma activates Creb, which in turn activates genes that boost neural connections.
Two further studies at Harvard University indicated that young blood infusions were able to rejuvenate the muscles and brains of older mice. The chemicals that are found in young blood boosted blood vessel growth in the old brain. This caused increased and improved circulation within the brain. The numbers of neural stem cells were boosted and these matured into brain cells. The older mice experienced a heightened sense of smell after being infused with the young blood.
The team at Harvard have indicated that they are able to replicate the effects by using a blood protein named GDF11. The level of this protein declines as the mice age, and the injections are able to restore the protein levels to those of younger mice.
A senior author on both the Harvard papers, Amy Wagers, said there was sufficient evidence to assume that the result would help in the fight against the effects of aging in older humans. She stated that the protein is the same in humans and mice, and can be found in the human bloodstream. She said that their preliminary analyses have indicated that the effect of the protein is similar in humans as in the mice, which indicates that the effects discovered during their research should be similar in humans.
Villeda stated that clinical trials are required to determine if the effect would be similar in humans and to allow scientists to determine the unwanted effects.
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