Can young blood rejuvenate memory in Alzheimer's patients?

Published: by Interim HealthCare

Can the blood of a young person help reverse memory decline in the elderly? One study shows that transfusing young plasma into an elderly body might be able to do just that.

When older mice were joined to the circulatory system of younger mice, the infusion of young blood actually improved memory and recall in the older specimens, showed a study done by a team at Stanford University. The older mice used in the experiment showed decreased memory and cognitive skills when put into a maze. Once they had access to the blood of younger mice, the older ones displayed greater synaptic plasticity (which is the ability to build new neural connections related to new information and experiences) and were able to remember the maze much better from task to task.

What did this experiment show?

Once researchers discovered that younger blood positively impacted memory, they attempted to inject elderly mice with the plasma of younger mice instead of connecting them via circulatory systems. This procedure showed the same type of improvement in brain functionality, reported Scientific American, which led researchers to question what plasma proteins were responsible for the change. They started by singling out two proteins, CSF2 and TIMP2. The first had already been shown to reverse toxic protein buildup in mice with Alzheimer's, so the team decided to test TIMP2 as it was the wildcard.

Isolating this single protein, they were able to prove that elderly mice responded positively to TIMP2 alone. Mice injected with this protein had increased functionality in their hippocampus, which is largely responsible for forming new memories.

Even more surprisingly, when they injected younger mice with antibodies that blocked this protein, the young mice did much worse on memory related mazes. This proves that the protein is not only beneficial to older mice, but imperative to the cognitive functionality of young mice.

Can it be replicated in humans?

Another group of researchers led by Wyss-Coray used young human plasma in elderly mice. This is the first step in testing a similar treatment on humans since the group was able to show that human plasma also improves cognitive ability. The mice continued to demonstrate increased neural plasticity in the hippocampus, which is the same region of the human brain affected by Alzheimer's.

Bolstered by the results, clinical trials are set to begin to test the effects of injecting young blood into older humans. At this point, Ambrosia, the company conducting clinical trials, is charging for participation, which is available solely to those individuals with the deepest pockets. However, because there are no drugs involved, proponents of this therapy are hopeful we'll see it being approved for medical usage for in 1-3 years. In the meantime, there are many ways to provide care to a loved one who is experiencing Alzheimer's or Dementia.

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