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Medicine Science

Elderly Mice Perk Up With Transfused Blood 178

Some exciting news, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, might make you glad that human blood is a renewable resource: "Giving old mice blood from young ones makes them smarter and improves such functions as exercise capacity, according to reports from two research teams that point to new ways to study and potentially treat diseases of aging. In one study, researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco found that blood transfusions from young mice reversed cognitive effects of aging, improving the old mice's memory and learning ability. The report was published Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine. Two other reports appearing in Science from researchers at Harvard University found that exposing old mice to a protein present at high levels in the blood of young mice and people improved both brain and exercise capability. An earlier report by some of the same researchers linked injections of the protein to reversal of the effects of aging on the heart. ... What isn't known from all this research, said Buck Institute's Dr. [Brian] Kennedy, is whether young blood might also increase the life span of mice and, if so, what such implications for humans might be."
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Elderly Mice Perk Up With Transfused Blood

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  • Vampirism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:29AM (#46916989)

    I can see the dystopia: Young people selling blood to old folks to pay the interest on student debt, mortgage debt, credit card debt... the old generation literally sucking the blood of the new generation.

    • by Torp ( 199297 )

      Norman Spinrad's "Bug Jack Barron" :)
      Although it wasn't blood i think, and the young donors died.

      • Norman Spinrad's "Bug Jack Barron"

        Or the first step to the pervasive organlegging in Larry Niven's Known Space. Where's Jack Brennan when you need him?

    • Interestingly, in Heinlein's books there are lifespan-prolonging treatments based on regular blood transfusions. They only became popular once blood was able to be made artificially, though.
      • That was the first thing I thought of as well. When the greater part of humanity becomes aware that extreme lifetimes are possible (Howard families), that spurs longevity research which ends up producing the idea of "young blood" transfusions to keep people perpetually healthy. At the time, I thought it was probably completely unscientific (that is, something he'd come up with absent any evidence it would work). Now I wonder... was there evidence suggesting this result, fifty-odd years ago?

      • by akpoff ( 683177 )

        My first thought as well: Methuselah's Children []. IIRC this is where we first meet Lazarus Long.

        In the story Lazarus Long and others are long-lived due to breeding program that financially rewards people whose parents and grandparents are long-lived who marry. For many years they stay under the radar of popular society and government but when they're found out no one will believe it's genetic. Rather they believe the long-lived must have some secret.

        The long-lived escape Earth on a stolen spaceship. While

    • I think you mean figuratively sucking the blood of the new generation. Since, you know, the heart pumps the blood out, so there is no sucking required. ;)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:32AM (#46917141)

      This is how they keep Keith Richards alive, isn't it?

    • Re:Vampirism (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:04AM (#46917211) Homepage Journal

      The young poor will be forced to give blood to the old rich. The old poor will be expected to die before they start actually using their social security.

    • Here I diffed it for you.

      *** current.scenario 2014-05-05 14:16:07.554773500 +0530
      --- dystopian.scenario 2024-02-30 14:16:31.182773500 +0530
      *** 1 ****
      ! Young people selling blood to old folks to pay the interest on student debt, mortgage debt, credit card debt... the old generation sucking the blood of the new generation.
      --- 1 ----
      ! Young people selling blood to old folks to pay the interest on student debt, mortgage debt, credit card debt, internet (neutrality) debt... the old ge

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      It's already happening in China. I know students who old a kidney to pay for their education. The UK isn't far behind, with sites catering to sugar babies [] looking for a daddy to fund their studies in exchange for sex.

      • It's called the oldest profession for a reason. Pussy is a valuable commodity. Women used to get a lifetime of support, these days they can only get rent.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I can see the dystopia: Young people selling blood to old folks to pay the interest on student debt, mortgage debt, credit card debt... the old generation literally sucking the blood of the new generation.

      And what percentage of the population do you think will engage in such a dark activity?

      If I had to guess, I'd say about.... 1%

    • How is this different then now. Other than the blood today is more metaphorical

    • I wouldn't be surprised if long term use of blood transfusions could cause allergies.

      What you really want is a brain dead clone to tap blood from (and supply replacement parts when necessary).

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        So short sighted. What you want to to repaid the organ that puts whatever chemical causes this to happen.

  • Link (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    • thanks. For some reason the link didn't want to show up for me. Must be one of my extensions.
      • It doesnt show up because someone didnt complete the A tag. This is the source of the summary:
        [a] makes them smarter and improves such functions as exercise capacity[/a]

        Whoops. Missing an HREF there.

    • by Smurf ( 7981 )

      Thanks for the link to TFA []. (I included a hyperlinked version for the benefit of the copy-paste impaired).

      Reading that WSJ article allowed me to find the actual scientific paper in Nature Medicine [], for those so inclined. Unfortunately it's paywalled except for the abstract and figures but those in the target audience of the paper probably have access through their institutions.


      The article written by Bruce Goldman of the Stanford University School of Medicine [] is a closer source to the original research without being paywalled. It's better than the Wall Street's version; there's less fluff with a little more depth in the explanation and also includes additional links to related sources.

      Ineterestingly noted was that this is considered an unsophisticated critical experiment; unsophisticated in that anyone could have done this decades ago without any real knowledge on the workings of

  • I LIKE this idea. Catch the slow and the stupid so that I might drain them of their own precious bodily fluids so that I might prolong my own life.

    On a somewhat less silly note I do wonder just how much of an improvement can be had via this. And more importantly how might it be applied to new treatment techniques. Using some of the regenerative techniques maybe we could culture, say, the bone marrow of a baby and use it to constantly produce fresh blood. Maybe every few years go in for a completely 'oil

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      Sigma protocol.

      • Never heard of that novel. But it DOES look interesting.

        And really I was thinking a bit more of some of Heinlein's later works. One way they slowed aging involved replacement blood.

    • It seems surprisingly close in detail to The Hunger, 1983 [], Starring: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon.

    • I LIKE this idea. Catch the slow and the stupid so that I might drain them of their own precious bodily fluids so that I might prolong my own life.

      You do realise that the rich and powerful can easily pay the fast and the strong to catch you so that they can drain your precious bodily fluids so that they can prolong their own lives. Still like the idea?

    • Apparently you can give blood every 56 days []. How often are transfusions needed, and would be able to store enough of your young blood to have a noticeable impact in old age. I wonder if this would work with storing your own blood when you're young, freezing it, and then transfusing it when you are older. If not, perhaps an organization could be developed such that people could donate into the system, for immediate use, and they'd be able to take out an equivalent amount of blood later when they needed it.
      • Blood can't be stored for prolonged periods of time. Don't offhand recall the time span, but it's weeks or months rather than years or decades.

        What might be the answer is long term storage of blood stem cells, like so called 'cord blood' repositories. Here parents send off a small sample of the newborn's child blood from the umbilical cord and deep freeze it. The original idea was that if the child developed leukemia, you could use the cord blood to restart the bone marrow after you killed all the cancer

        • by chooks ( 71012 )

          You can store blood, properly prepared for up to 10 years at -65C. You have to use glycerol as a storage medium. People with rare phenotypes can freeze their own blood for use later when they need it. Athletes can freeze their blood to use it for doping at the appropriate time (see Tyler Hamilton's book The Secret Race for more of this type of usage).

          Fresh blood can be stored from anywhere 35-42 days, depending on the storage solution used (e.g. CPDA-1 or CPD + additives).

          ...the more you know

      • We don't have enough people donating for current medical needs, I don't see people donating for this unless it pays well.
  • ... that they got from another study: []

    but at least these mice weren't genetically engineered to only live a week to begin with so this result may have a (lot) more relevance.

    Fortunately despite the worries of the (first!) poster, hopefully we won't descend into a civilization where the old literally becomes a vampiritic parasite on the young. They've already identified, isolated and synthetically produced (the?) protein which causes this effect so we'll be able to get the benefits without bloodletting. Still makes (made?) a great premise for science fiction/vampire movies.

    As an aside, I'm impressed by how Harvard, a decade or two ago, seemed to make the decision not to go into (what I thought) was the trendy/hot science of genetic engineering but instead has invested hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into becoming the(?) center for stem cell research. Meanwhile, genetic engineering seemed to have been sidetracked by "junk DNA" and epigenetics and in general the overwhelming complexity of the human genome (although the invention of CRISPR is a major major advance). Was it obvious to biologists that this was the right decision? Go Crimson!

  • by jsepeta ( 412566 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:44AM (#46917027) Homepage

    maybe vlad the impaler's wife was on to something!

    • I thought the legend was about Elizabeth Báthory?
      • by Torp ( 199297 )

        You've got to give him points for attributing it to the wife and not to Vlad the Impaler himself :)
        But i don't mind the Bathory chick being mixed with Vlad - leads to more tourism.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I, for one, welcome our new vampire overlords!

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:45AM (#46917033) Journal
    The injected 'young' plasma, which improved the ability of the hippocampus, which improved learning and memory. Obviously they are trying to isolate what exactly is different about the blood that is different.

    The focus is on the protein GDF11, which seems to cause improvements. The article suggests it will be three years before human testing of GDF11.
  • Isolate the protiens the young mice have that the old mice don't have. Blood transfusions aren't necessary... Just saline and protien.
    • by Kaenneth ( 82978 )

      Salty protein injection joke here...

    • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @05:29AM (#46917407)

      Isolate the protiens the young mice have that the old mice don't have. Blood transfusions aren't necessary... Just saline and protien.

      The previous studies that had the same result eventually concluded that it was the pluripotent stem cells in the blood which had come out of the marrow as part of normal blood production.

      On this basis, a treatment was developed (and insurance approved) using autologous stem cell transplantation; it's a common treatment for some types of cardiac events. There are also transplants involving harvesting of marrow stem cells, and then separating leukotic stem cells from those which are non-leukotic, and then growing and storing them while the patient undergoes radiation or chemotherapy to kill of their remaining marrow (this requires frequent transfusions to keep the blood volume of functional cells up, as the body is no longer replacing them itself at a high enough rate). Subsequent to this, the saved and separated cells are then transplanted back into the long bones (the rest of the interior areas of the smaller bones are allowed to be recolonoized by stem cells that escape the long bones). Since the treaments are autologous, you about conditions like interstitial pneomonitis, or the need for anti-rejection therapy, which is sometimes problematic when using a heterologous cell source.

      See also: []

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Stem cells appear to be a non-renewable resource, and there are signs in the very elderly that as the remaining count approaches zero, so does the life expectancy.
        Would that not imply that transplants and transfusions prolongs the life expectancy and quality of the recipients while at the same time reducing it for the donors?

        In other countries, the blood and marrow of aborted foetuses might be used as a source, but here in the magic-thinking US, that won't fly for several more generations.
        So who is going to

    • It might not be that the young mice have something the old mice don't. It might be that old blood has too much debris -- malformed platelets, histamines, hormones, viruses, and rubble from collapsed cell walls. That junk could be gunking up the metabolic works in the elderly. Then you're not looking for a protein factor, you're looking for a filter, which is much more difficult to develop.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wait ... I can just use my own :(

  • We need to progress this technology quick. We need to progress human trials. It is important we know if this method could improve human function as well such as doing endurance sports like cycling.

  • I just saw a Spiderman movie with a similar plot

  • Stealing advanced Romanian scientific discovery!!!!!

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @05:28AM (#46917405)

    She would recover for about six weeks.

    But on the third time- she died of blood poisoning- which is a risk from getting a blood transfusion.

    But it was kinda like I got to see her again after she had been gone for a long time, replaced by a sort of dotty, eccentric person. She was suddenly sharp, intelligent and the fuzziness went away.

    • by kyrsjo ( 2420192 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @07:20AM (#46917745)

      Sorry for your loss :(

      May I ask why was she getting blood transfusions in the first place, and how old she was? And recover from what?

      • The way I understand, it was high ammonia levels from her body not cleaning her blood enough. So probably a liver issue of some kind.

        She was in her early 70's.

        For several years she'd gotten kinda dotty and spooky. We had all assumed it was just part of the aging process. The first time she had to get a transfusion- she recovered her faculties. It was like going from a 100iq to a 120iq.

        The way she described it was "foggy thinking" and "hard to think". Apparently nothing they could do with the underlying

        • by kyrsjo ( 2420192 )

          Yeah, that sounds about right:
          a paper found by a google search on amonia regulation in the body. It mentions that amonia is important for creating "hepatic coma" and high amonia levels are correlated to "meat intoxication".

          It's interesting that the symptoms sounds remarkably similar to the dementia old people often get. I wonder if one could treat exess amonia with dialysis?

  • by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @05:54AM (#46917491)
    As it stands, hundreds of thousands of people in the United States donate blood and plasma everyday, not out of goodness of heart, but for the quick $50 you get. If it turns out that this procedure not only works on humans, but that the effects are substantial, and the FDA actually approved the practice, the value and price of blood would go up and the number of donors would skyrocket. This could cause problems like increasing the cost of a blood transfusion for someone who is bleeding out from a bad accident. It may introduce social problems like a suddenly expanding elderly population, but perhaps they would be better able to take care of themselves and would require less age-disease related medication. Then their is the problem of who pays for it. People who retired with a lot of money may be able to pay what could be a hefty price, but what of people in lower classes? If this extends life, would it not be a right to life issue where anyone past a certain age is guaranteed the procedure? Would Medicare pick up the bill? What about retirement and the employment market? Ideally we will discover that a whole blood transfusion is not necessary but that instead there is just one component of young blood that would need distilled, cloned, grown in a lab and infused in smaller amounts then a full transfusion.

    At the end of the day, life extension is one of the major goals of modern medicine, and aging itself is increasingly be viewed as a disease. Whether or not this pans out, eventually something will, and we will then enter into stranger times then we already live. Cheers to the future for better or worse.
    • $50!?! Seriously I'm surprised that not everyone does it for that price. I'm pretty sure you don't get paid in Canada. It's always referred to as "donating" blood. Apparently you can give blood every 56 days []. I think that many people would welcome an extra $300 a year.
      • You don't generally get paid for whole blood. But they do for plasma, which can also be donated more regularly.

  • Most of the coverage of this story is reporting the "Happy happy joy joy!" aspects (cure heart disease! reverse aging! improving mental agility!), but a few outlets are reporting that there's also a risk for cancer.

    • Realistically, curing heart disease, reversing aging, and improving mental agility are worth some cancer risk.
  • Next Google investment you'll hear about is mice. []
  • It's a trick to get the world's powerful sociopaths to worry about global warming.

  • Does this work across species? Does this work if you inject young mouse blood into old humans? How about pig blood? As creepy as it sounds, I could imagine an enterprise that harvests animal blood and sells it to humans.

    Could you inject old human blood into young people as some sort of punishment? Or to educate them about what it feels like to get older?

  • ... with the "Krazy Kripples" [] story line where Christopher [] Reeve [] sucks down fetus blood to cure his quadriplegia and gain super-human strength:

    In "Krazy Kripples", Christopher Reeve comes to town to promote stem cell research. In order to 'cure' his quadriplegia, he is shown sucking the fluids out of fetuses from a medical bio-hazard container. With each fetus he sucks dry, Reeves becomes healthier and more dependent on them for his developing super human strength.

  • ... stay off my lawn!

    On second thought, come on over and play.


"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor