Transfusions of young blood could reverse the ageing process and may even help treat Alzheimer's disease, scientists have found.
According to their findings, the blood of young mice has the ability to restore mental capabilities in old mice.
And if the same goes for humans, it could signal a way to "recharge" our ageing brains and offer new therapeutic approaches for treating dementias such as Alzheimer's disease.
In the study, researchers used sophisticated techniques to pin down numerous changes in the brains of old mice that shared the blood of young mice.
Dr Tony Wyss-Coray, the senior author of the study and a professor of neurological sciences, said: “It was as if these old brains were recharged by young blood.”
The scientists compared older mice's performance on standard laboratory tests of spatial memory after these mice had received infusions of plasma (the cell-free part of blood) from young versus old mice, or no plasma at all.
Story continues below...
The study’s lead author, Dr Saul Villeda, said: “We’ve shown that at least some age-related impairments in brain function are reversible. They’re not final.”
"This could have been done 20 years ago," said Dr Wyss-Coray. "You don't need to know anything about how the brain works. You just give an old mouse young blood and see if the animal is smarter than before. It's just that nobody did it."
"There are factors present in blood from young mice that can recharge an old mouse's brain so that it functions more like a younger one," Wyss-Coray said. "We're working intensively to find out what those factors might be and from exactly which tissues they originate."
"We don't know yet if this will work in humans," he said, adding that he hopes to find out sooner rather than later. A near-term goal of his company is to test this proposition through a clinical trial.
The study, conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators, is published in Nature Medicine.