Solving Aging with Young Blood and Circulating Factors?

Shadhi Mansoori | Director of Development

Parabiosis: surgically joining two organisms that then share and exchange rapid and continuous circulation.

Parabiosis has been adopted by researchers as a means to test if joining old and young mice together (heterochronic parabiosis) shows signs of reversing age-related impairments. To identify any such correlation, a Stanford University study used parabiosis to find that synaptic plasticity and dendritic spine number increased in old mice that were exposed to young blood. In an interview with the Guardian, the principal investigator of this study, Tony Wyss-Coray, jokes that some in the science community have likened his findings to vampires living off the blood of prey.


Researchers created heterochronic pairs of mice to determine the effects of the combined
circulatory system on each individual.

As mystical as young blood infusions may sound, a team of researchers at Harvard led by Amy Wagers and Richard Lee has discovered through parabiosis and proteomics analysis (protein testing) a possible remedy to aging that is a bit less uncanny. This team has identified the Growth Differentiation Factor 11 (GDF-11) as a protein that declines with age. When they exposed old mice with cardiac hypertrophy to the blood of young mice that had GDF-11, researchers found signs of hypertrophy were reversed.

But, don’t go injecting yourself with GDF-11 just yet. Several scientists have contested the findings of this study across the country, so more work needs to be done to either confirm or contradict this solution to cardiac aging.

Other researchers around the world have tried to pinpoint the source of aging. Researchers at Berkeley have found that oxytocin rejuvenates old muscle cells, while scientists at Wuhan University have correlated GDF-15 with cardiac fibrosis. Saul Villeda, Wyss-Coray’s colleague, has identified Beta 2 Microglobulin (β2M) as elevated in the blood of aging individuals.


Past studies by researchers that could lead to new blood-borne therapies.

Scientists have been grappling with the question to find what it is that exactly causes aging, and how can we slow or deter this aging factor?

The implications of breakthroughs in reversing age-related physiological deterioration would be life changing for anyone suffering from the likes of cognitive impairments or cardiac hypertrophy, now and in the future. As humans are living longer lives than ever before, how can we make sure they aren’t just living longer, but better too? The findings of Wyss-Coray, Wagers, Lee, Villeda, and others working on this research could turn into a massively lucrative business. Maybe one day it will be just as common to see plasma on the black market, as it is to see other hard-to-get items. The race to solve aging is on.


For more information, check out these sources:

  1. (GDF 11)
  2. (Young Blood)
  3. (B2Microglobulin)
  4. (Oxytocin)
  5.  (GDF-15)
  6. (The Guardian)

Controversies over GDF 11:


Picture Sources:


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