Sometime in not too distant a future it may become possible to not just slow ageing but reverse it. And this is not science fiction. Three research papers published back to back in April last year showed how old mice when injected with plasma extracted from their young brethren turned stunningly youthful, as sprightly as their donors!
These revitalized animals competed evenly with their much younger brood in both physical and mental performance tests, from navigating a maze to swiftly locating a submerged platform in a submerged container and running in a wheel. Their heart, skeletal tissue, muscle and even brain function all pointed to a remarkable and unbelievable reversal in characteristics related to age.
The results of the studies shockingly overturned the overwhelming scientific thought that the damage done by the ageing process cannot be reversed. Further validation of these results may arm us to not merely postpone ageing but turn the clock back, dragging the concept of eternal youth from the realms of science fiction to reality.
Although young blood has historically been seen as a fountain of youth among cultures around the world for centuries, medical researchers never thought of trying this out until about 60 years ago.
All it took was seven to eight injections of young blood over a three-week period for the mice to ‘grow’ young! A more macabre parabiotic experiment statured the old and young mice sutured together so they shared the same blood supply. Result: The signs of ageing had receded dramatically in every organ checked following the trial. Researchers then observed that heating up young mouse blood negated the effect, showing that blood proteins played a key role in maintaining health and vitality. Typically, these proteins reduce with ageing.
One of these proteins been identified as GDF-11, which is also found in human blood. Another might be Oxytocin. This as we said is NOT science fiction: Human longevity could potentially be extended indefinitely if this method works as well for humans as it has for lab mice. But there is a world of difference between men and mice and it may be year before an age reversing procedure becomes valid for humans.
Only two neural stem cells were found in the oldest lady to ever donate her body to science indicating that the lifespan of humans is governed by the ability of stem cells to replenish bodily tissues. Only stem cells can help the body regenerate. Young mouse blood actually restarts stem cell production in old mouse brains and it for this reason that the first set humans selected for trials are all Alzheimer’s patients. The hope is that the treatment will cure their condition and improve their quality of life.
Even if the effects are only temporary this new research promises at the very least the possibility of holding back the less desirable features of old age such as senility. Mental decline is something many people consider a far worse fate than even death. Aging with dignity is something everyone wants.
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