Centuries of mythical speculation may have actually been onto something. New research suggests that exposure to young blood may help heal old bodies. Were Count Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein ahead of their time?
It’s Old Blood, Not Old Bones, We Have to Blame
As we age, our tissues have a harder time repairing and regenerating themselves. Turns out that this may have something to do with the age of our blood, not just our bones. Here’s where it gets a little gothic novel. In one recently published study, scientists took old mice and younger mice, gave them bone fractures, removed a layer of skin at the fracture site, and then stitched the young and old mouse together– a procedure called parabiosis. This procedure allowsthe two hearts to pump the blood through both bodies, exposing the older mouse to the blood of the younger mouse and vice versa. What happened next supported their theory. They found that the exposure to young blood allowed the fractures in the older mice to heal faster than normal.
The Key To Healing Faster
The researchers suspect that the young blood cells secreted a protein or molecule that regulates levels of another protein called beta-catenin and this may have helped speed up the healing process for the fractured bone.
While we won’t be seeing people getting stitched together anytime soon, there is a next step to this research. Researchers hope to isolate the factor that is believed to speed up this healing process by regulating beta catenin, so drugs may be created to enable fracture repair as we age and reduce the need for surgeries.
Gurpreet S. Baht, David Silkstone, Linda Vi, Puviindran Nadesan, Yasha Amani, Heather Whetstone (2015). Exposure to a youthful circulation rejuvenates bone repair through modulation of β-catenin. Nature Communications 6, Article number: 7131. doi:10.1038/ncomms8131. http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150519/ncomms8131/full/ncomms8131.html