It is possible that we can grow biologically younger – and they key is in our blood, according to a scientist.
The biomedical gerontologist – an aging expert – says that one day we won’t die from old age or ill health – only as a result of road accidents.
That’s according to Briton Aubrey de Grey, who is chief science officer and co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation in Mountain View in California.
His company is one of an increasing number of Bay Area researchers pursuing the fountain of youth – focusing on isolating a factor in blood to turn back the hands of time.
The idea is that giving the plasma of the young to the old could help to reverse the effects of ageing.
Researchers believe blood plasma could be the fountain of youth (stock photo)
And while it’s a concept that calls to mind vampire lore and stories of bathing in blood, research has suggested it’s not just pie in the sky.
Indeed, researchers at Stanford University, led by neuroscientist Tony Wyss-Coray, showed in a 2014 study that infusions of blood from young mice reversed cognitive and neurological impairments in old rodents.
Now biotech start-ups are racing to replicate this in humans, to achieve what we only know in science-fiction movies: eternal youth and health.
‘The risk of death will remain the risk of death from causes other than aging — like being hit by a truck,’ Dr de Grey told CBS SF Bay Area.
‘We don’t know how soon we’re going to defeat aging. We should be able to keep people truly in a youthful state of health, no matter how long they live and that means the risk of death will not rise.
‘Plasma transfusions are big hot property right now.’
Experiments in humans
A year after the Stanford research, biotech company Alkahest in San Carlo, California, experimented a step further in a series of trials injecting the blood plasma of 18-year-old humans into old mice.
They found that similar effects to the original study – human blood did rejuvenate both the body and brain, improving cognition and allowing them to frolic about like their younger counterparts.
Knowing that mice are biologically similar to humans, the researchers believed a similar technique could one day be used to benefit us.
WE DISAGREE: AGING IS ‘MATHEMATICALLY INEVITABLE
It is the holy grail for scientists, to create a future where humans can achieve everlasting life.
But it will only ever be science fiction, a study suggests, as it is impossible to stop the march of time.
Researchers who looked at aging have concluded there is ‘no way out’ of death even with a breakthrough in drugs or treatment.
The problem as we get older is that some cells become sluggish, so our bodies slow down and organs do not work properly, while other cells speed up and cause cancer.
We could slow down cancer cells to stop them in their tracks, but this would probably worsen the effects of aging.
Meanwhile speeding up the other sluggish cells might trigger cancer, which would out-compete them and grow into a tumour. The catch-22 was arrived at in a study by the University of Arizona, based on a new mathematical model of aging.
Senior author Joanna Masel, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said: ‘Aging is mathematically inevitable – like, seriously inevitable. There’s logically, theoretically, mathematically no way out.’
The Alkahest team examined the brains of the treated mice, and found that they appeared to have created new cells in the hippocampus.
This process, known as neurogenesis, is thought to contribute to memory and learning, and the results now show that it can be enhanced through the injection of young human blood, New Scientist reports.
According to Sakura Minami, who was involved in the study, some of the factors that give young blood its power have now been identified – but, the team will not reveal them yet.
It is hoped that these findings could one day help them to develop not just anti-aging treatments – but even help people with neurological diseases.
Human trails have already begun to test this hypothesis. Last month, a Stanford University study found so-called ‘vampire transfusions’ may help people with dementia.
They were shown to regain the capacity to perform basic daily tasks, such as making their own meals, paying bills and remembering to take their medications.
This is what happened when they gave 18 people with Alzheimer’s disease the blood plasma of 18 to 30-year-olds.
Although this was an early-stage trial, set up only to determine if such transfusions were safe, the authors were surprised by the results.
The study’s principal investigator, Dr Sharon Sha, said: ‘Our enthusiasm concerning these findings needs to be tempered by the fact that this was a small trial. But these results certainly warrant further study.’