Recent research suggests that old blood may have a negative impact on the body by damaging organs and increasing the effects of aging. A newly developed compound shows promise in protecting against this, by preventing aging in the brains of mice.
The link between blood and aging was first discovered during experiments that connected young and old mice so that circulating blood was shared between them. The older mice showed improvements, including developing healthier organs and gaining protection from age-related diseases. However, the younger mice showed signs of premature aging.
Experiments like this suggest that young blood has restorative properties, but something in older blood causes harm. Hanadie Yousef at Stanford University appears to have isolated a protein responsible for some of the damage caused by older blood, and developed a potential way to prevent it.
The VCAM1 Protein
Yousef discovered that a protein called VCAM1 increases in the blood as the body ages. The levels of VCAM1 are 30 percent higher in individuals over 65 compared to those under 25. Yousef tested the effects of the protein by injecting blood plasma from older mice into young mice; as expected, the young mice showed signs of aging. She then repeated the experiments using blood plasma from humans in their late 60s. Again, the young mice showed signs of premature aging after injections of older blood.
The effects of aging were prevented during experiments where Yousef also injected a compound to block VCAM1. Young mice given the antibody at the same time or before an injection of older blood were protected from the negative effects. Yousef hopes that this research will contribute to an understanding of the way mechanisms that cause aging work and how to reverse them in order to encourage healthy aging.
Other researchers are impressed with the findings, but interested in seeing more data and replicated results. Jonathan Godbout at Ohio State University expressed cautious optimism about the work leading to a possible treatment to protect aging brains.
Some teams have started giving plasma donated by young people to older adults, to find out if it will impact their health or possibly lessen the effect of Alzheimer’s disease. Although this is a start, neutralizing the effects of the older blood is likely to give the best chance for success.
Protect Against Old Blood
Yousef says a drug to protect people from the damaging effects of old blood would be more effective than plasma injections. It would be safer, less expensive, and easier to produce on a wide scale than transfusions. She is in the process of patenting her compound and hopes to develop an effective treatment against the effects old blood on aging.