Can We Reverse Aging Using Young Blood? New Research Says Maybe.
One look at the beauty products at your local convenience store and it becomes clear what our mission is. Skin creams, face lifts, and tummy tucks are commonplace these days as people strive to look and feel younger than ever. But could science have found a truly effective way to reverse aging? New research says it might be possible to undo the effects of aging by using blood from the early years of life.
A Gift to Science
The body of Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, who once reigned as the world’s oldest woman, has provided scientists with information about how the body ages over time and helped uncover this potential method to reverse aging. Besides being the world’s oldest woman, she was also one of the healthiest. Despite living to age 115, Andel-Schipper had nearly perfect cognition and her body was free of disease until just before her death. When she died in 2005, her body was donated to science at her request in order for researchers to study and provide the public with any findings.
Though many people consider dementia an unavoidable part of aging, Andel-Schipper showed absolutely no signs of dementia, either externally while alive or internally during the brain analysis conducted by scientists after her death. The information uncovered during their research led them to the conclusion that human life spans are limited by the capacity of stem cells to regenerate tissue. Once the stem cells that exist within the body become exhausted over time, their eventual expiration is a precursor to the body’s gradual degeneration.
“It’s estimated that we’re born with around 20,000 blood stem cells, and at any one time, around 1000 are simultaneously active to replenish blood,” says Henne Holstege, who is part of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and headed the research.
The Role of Stem Cells
Towards the end of her life, two-thirds of the white blood cells in Andel-Schipper’s body were found to have come from just two stem cells, indicating that most or all of the other stem cells that one existed within her body had died. On top of that, the somatic mutations that occurred within her body, which often cause cancer in individuals, didn’t cause any disease at all in her case, suggesting that her system was superior to most other peoples’ bodies at repairing those mutations. This caused scientists to speculate that it may be possible to actually revitalize old bodies with stem cells that were saved from birth or early life. Those young stem cells would be free of mutations, paving the way for a healthier and more functional body.
This research could open doors to all kinds of possibilities in the realm of aging. As the need for long term care continues to grow, it is as important as ever to remain as healthy and active as possible for as long as possible. If the theory of stem cell regeneration for brain functionality is correct, as it seems to be, that might one day include saving stem cells from birth to use later in life as you age. The anti-aging industry could dramatically change based on these findings and how science decides to use them. This isn’t the only team studying the possibility of reversing aging, either. Another research group recently came to similar conclusions.
Shortly after details about Andel-Schipper were made public, Harvard researchers released information about the protein GDF11 that holds the potential to reverse aging by regenerating tissue. Another unrelated Univserity of California San Francisco study found that young blood plasma transfusions improved brain health in older mice, and the same may hold true for humans.
While we aren’t ready to utilize this research just yet, the Harvard research team says clinical trials of GDF11 on humans could begin as early as the next three to five years. In the meantime, stay active. That was one of Andel-Schipper’s top pieces of advice to attain longevity, and it seems to have paid off for her.