Blood has the power to heal, as any patient who has received a blood transfusion will tell you. However, we may soon discover that blood – specifically, youthful blood – has regenerative treatment properties as well. Previous studies have shown that plasma from younger mice was able to revitalize the brain, muscles, and liver of elderly mice. Now a recent study from Alkahest, a med-tech firm, may show the same can be possible with young-blood transfusions for people.
What the Study Indicates
The original intention of the young-blood transfusion study was to compare two groups of elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease, with one to be given a placebo and the other an infusion of plasma from adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Partway through the study, it would switch, with the first group receiving plasma and the second receiving the placebo. Unfortunately, several patients dropped out from the study.
Instead, Alkahest ran a study in which all the patients received young-blood transfusions for a number of weeks, and results were compared with a previous placebo trial. When cognitive tests were administered, there was no change from the placebo. However, caregiver surveys were also administered, and these indicated some day-to-day improvements in awareness and ability to perform daily activities.
While young-blood treatments and youthful plasma would not be a cure for Alzheimer’s, the study seems to indicate that the young-blood transfusions were able to help rejuvenate certain parts of the brain, effectively returning them to a more youthful state. Alkahest has admitted these results are inconclusive because the study could not be performed properly, and caregivers may be predisposed to see hopeful signs. However, the results are encouraging enough to push forward with new trials, including a test with a greater number of patients and variety in dosages.
How These Effects Might Occur
Once there were real indications that young-blood plasma transfusions could help pause or reverse aging, even in rats, researchers began to dig into why that could be the case. A German study from the University at Ulm went to the root of what makes blood – bone marrow and stem cells. They found that marrow could only be rejuvenated properly when a sufficient amount of the protein osteopontin was present.
Consider the fact that an aging body produces aged cells which are less efficient at performing their necessary duties. In both studies, young cells carrying necessary “components” may be giving the body what it needs to repair youthfully. More research on young-blood transfusion is certainly required, both to prove the role of plasma (or its progenitor tissues) in rejuvenation and anti-aging, and the extent of those effects.
With age comes experience, something we all value. Unfortunately, it also comes with a host of physical side effects that none of us want to face. Whether we look for a way stay youthful looking or ardently search for cures to more devastating age-related diseases and disorders, we each hope to hold onto youth and stave off death for just a little longer. Studies like the young-blood transfusion one present new avenues of thought and push forward medical discoveries that can help make that a reality.