A study into the impact of injecting young blood into older mice has found that it may be able to reduce the effects of aging on the brain.1
The study, which was carried out by researchers from the University of California, found that injecting the blood of young mice could rejuvenate communication between nerve cells in older mice, which could aid memory and learning. It also found that young blood improved the thinking process of older mice after testing them by using a maze challenge against a controlled group. Mice injected with the younger blood found it easier to escape than those who were not.
As it ages, the state of the brain alters both functionally and structurally, which can affect thought processes. Aging is also linked to the development of degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer's - one of the reasons this study is of particular interest.
This research supports the findings of previous animal studies, which have examined the impact of young blood on stem cells in the liver, muscles, brain and spinal chord. However, the researchers were unable to identify exactly why the changes occurred in the older mice and so further research is required.
At this early stage there are no implications for humans, although the results are of scientific interest. Even if the step from animals to humans was to take place in the future, there would be some major ethical issues to consider beforehand.
1. Villeda SA, Plambeck KE, Muddeldrop J, et al. Young blood reverses age-related impairments in cognitive function and synaptic plasticity in mice. Nature Medicine, published online May 4 2014.