Alzheimer’s: Can Young Blood Help Cure Older People?

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In early October, a team of scientists from the Stanford School of Medicine will transfuse blood from those aged 30 and younger to older people suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Evidence supports the hypothesis that transfusing the blood of younger mice to older ones can improve the cognition and health of the latter, according to The Washington Post. The idea is if young blood helps older mice, the blood of younger people can help improve the cognition of older people with Alzheimer’s.

Another bonus is that the blood made older animals look younger. Maybe Elizabeth Báthory, the first prolific serial killer, was onto something when she would drink and bathe in the blood of young girls to keep her youth and beauty.

Additionally, reversing the process yielded similar effects. Young animals that received old blood started to age prematurely. Also, sometimes the animals’ injuries wouldn’t heal as quickly as they normally would because their organs had deteriorated in health.

To get into the specifics of the science behind the idea, a protein in blood plasma called GDF11 decreases with age in both animals and humans. When mice received daily injections of the protein in experiments, their brain function improved.

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Now the Stanford team wants to know if increasing GDF11 will have the same effect on humans suffering from Alzheimer’s. The preliminary results suggest human blood rejuvenates as well. The leader of the team, Tony Wyss-Coray, explained, “We saw astounding effects. The human blood had beneficial effects on every organ we’ve studied so far.”

Wyss-Coray elaborates that getting approval for the experiments has been pretty easy. Blood transfusions have a long-standing record of safety. Though he warns against swapping blood at home or drinking it (which kills the fun of the vampire theory entirely).

Even with the evidence behind the research, Wyss-Coray cautions that the experiment is still in its early stages. It will take months to follow through with patients to determine results and see if the hypothesis is worth pursuing further.

The team agrees GDF11 isn’t the only factor that keeps organs healthy. Ideally, the researchers would like to determine several factors that produce these effects. That way, instead of always having to draw blood from younger people, they might be able to create a drug that does the same thing.

If the experiments go well, younger people could have the potential to help find a cure for older people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, a heartbreaking and devastating disease. And all it would take is some blood.


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