How Older People May Produce Younger Blood To Keep Them Healthier
Vampires are said to keep youthful by drinking the blood of the young, but now scientists may have found a way for the old to produce ‘younger’ blood that will keep them healthier longer.
Tampering with blood cells in elderly people could provide the secret to us staying healthy, though, unlike Dracula, it won’t extend our lives.
Scientists in the United States discovered a rejuvenating effect on the blood of mice when given a drug blocking inflammatory signals critical to aging.
The researchers from Columbia University in New York saw stronger heartbeats and muscles as well as sharper thinking in the mice, and believe the same effects could be possible in humans.
It is hoped the rejuvenating effects of keeping blood young could soon be taken in a pill to help people maintain their health as they grow older.
The ground-breaking study – published in the journal Nature Cell Biology – stands apart from similar studies which look at ways of replicating young blood in the elderly instead of rejuvenating the system that makes blood.
The research team initially focused on the stem cells located in our bone marrow responsible for creating all of our blood cells.
Over the years, these stem cells produce fewer and fewer red blood cells and immune cells, potentially leading to anemia, increasing the risk of infection and impeding vaccinations.
In 2021, the team at the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative attempted to rejuvenate old stem cells in mice with exercise and a calorie-restricted diet – both of which are thought to slow aging.
However, neither method worked, nor did transfer the old cells into young bone marrow.
Dr. Emmanuelle Passegué, Director of the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative, and her colleagues took to further investigating the bone marrow where the stem cells live.
They discovered that aging bone marrow was deteriorating and inflamed, leading to dysfunction in the blood stem cells.
Dr. Passegué and her team found that one inflammatory signal in the damaged bone marrow, IL-1B, was critical in driving the effects of aging in the cells.
The researchers then discovered that blocking this signal using the anti-inflammatory drug anakinra, which is already used by arthritis sufferers, surprisingly returned the cells to a younger and healthier state.
Further youthful effects were also identified when the IL-1B signal was blocked throughout the lifespan of the mice – leading to hope the same anti-aging effects could be applied in humans.
Dr. Passegué explained: “An aging blood system – because it’s a vector for a lot of proteins, cytokines, and cells – has a lot of bad consequences for the organism.”
“A 70-year-old with a 40-year-old blood system could have a longer health span – if not a longer lifespan.
“Treating elderly patients with anti-inflammatory drugs blocking IL-1B function should help with maintaining healthier blood production.
“We know that bone tissue begins to degrade when people are in their 50s… but what happens in middle age? Why does the bone marrow niche fail first?
“Only by having a deep molecular understanding will it be possible to identify approaches that can truly delay aging.”
Dr. Linda Fried, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, says the study could represent a huge leap in creating “healthy longevity for all.”
Dr. Fried, who is also the Director of the Butler Columbia Aging Center, said: “Now it is imperative to conduct the science to determine how to create health and well-being across the full length of those lives.
“This must include research to understand the mechanisms of normal aging and how to fully develop the huge opportunities to create healthy longevity for all.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.