The search for the fountain of youth has fascinated people throughout history. Ponce de Leon came to the new world to discover it, and Countess Elizabeth Bathory supposedly bathed in the blood of young virgins to maintain her own youth and vitality. Surprisingly enough, Bathory might have had the right idea (sort of): in recent experiments, scientists found that transfusing young blood in old mice rejuvenated them, improving their brains and bodies.
The first study, by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California started with taking plasma from young mice and injecting it into old mice. The older mice showed significant improvements in brain functions, specifically in the hippocampus, which plays a critical role in the process of memory formation. The older mice also showed significant increases in their abilities to learn and store memories after the transfusion. As the hippocampus is one of the first parts of the brain to deteriorate in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, this study could prove helpful in treating that age-related condition.
The second study, by Harvard researchers, looked at a particular protein in the blood, called GDF11. This protein affects the sense of smell in mice, something they depend on to survive. The researchers transfused this protein from younger mice into older mice. The older mice became stronger and sturdier, and their capability for exercise increased.
The obvious thing to point out here is that mice aren't humans, and what works for rodents might not work for us. However, both studies suggest evidence in fighting age-related illnesses and diseases (such as dementia, heart disease and cancer), if not aging itself. Combined with other age-related research in mice, we might soon all be living longer and healthier lives.