Posted by: Chris Maloney | May 27, 2014

Can Young Blood Reverse Aging? Did the vampires have it right all along?

A couple of weeks back I read about age reversal. A mouse study showed that aging mice reversed aging when given young mouse blood.

While the author, Alan Caron, sees this as a heralding moment in the future of humankind, there are darker implications.

Are we going to start up blood banks of the young for the old? Should we start putting ages on donated blood? (Because younger mice aged when given older mouse blood). Are we even going to see human blood on the health food menu or stocked on the fitness store shelves anytime soon?

Truly, I will be as thrilled as the next person to reverse aging. I just thought it will come as a pill, not as a horror movie drink.

To be fair, the researchers immediately isolated out a specific part of the blood that reversed aging. The protein, protein growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11), is the part that reverses aging. And that factor is only specific to the rejuvenation of skeletal muscle, not the whole system. (study here).

But isn’t this a ground-breaking, earth-shattering announcement? Let me rewind the clock to 1978, when we had a study that says: “A single administration of….–a non-toxic, non-specific stimulant of the host defense system–partly compensates the age-determined suppression of the humoral, immune response.” (study here) The miraculous supplement? Coenzyme Q10, both popular and expensive today, but not age-reversing.

If you type in a search for mouse and age reversal, there have been more than a hundred mouse studies that show age reversal for a variety of organs, but translating that reversal to humans is harder than it sounds.

Let’s look a little more closely at our miracle protein of the day, GDF 11.

It is a “regulator of cell growth and differentiation in both embryonic and adult tissues.” (here) It shares that title with a lot of other proteins, but tends to dominate. It also tends to suppress, or block brain cell movement. So while it may be great for the skeletal muscle, you might be losing brain cells every time you take it.

Here’s the medicalese: researchers have shown “GDF11 to be a master regulator of neural stem cell transcription that can suppress cell proliferation and migration by regulating the expression of numerous genes involved in both these processes, and by suppressing transcriptional responses to factors that normally promote proliferation and/or migration.” (here)

So no, I don’t think going vampire is going to be a cure for the near future. I’m also not that excited about GDF11 when you see it on the supplement shelves. I’d steer clear of this one until we get some more information on long-term brain effects.

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