Scientists Reverse Aging Process In Mice, Could It Work For Humans?

Indrani Sengupta
It seems like something out of a Gothic novel or a dark legend, doesn't it? The idea that the old could be rejuvenated by the blood of the young.

Would Countess Elizabeth Báthory and all her grisly successors be pleased by this newest scientific breakthrough? Would they say “I told you so”?

Years ago, Saul Villeda, a PhD student at Stanford University, took up a project that harkens back to the medical science of the Middle Ages. He wanted to answer, once and for all, the old hypothesis: whether the blood of the young can resurrect the old and frail.

Villeda conducted studies on pairs of surgically conjoined mice (we weren’t kidding about the word “grisly” up there). The old mice received blood from the young ones and vice versa. Then he waited to see what he would find.

Usually, the neurons in aging brains lose their connections and begin to die off. But in the case of the old mice that were the subject of Villeda’s experiment, the brains had received a sudden cell growth in the hippocampus. Compared to the control, they had three to four times as many newborn neurons.

Scientists reverse ageing process in mice

The growth of new neurons in the young mice, however, had stalled. They looked old before their time.

That was seven years ago, and research has continued. It’s important to check our enthusiasm, however, since the study has only been conducted on mice. No effect on human candidates has been proven yet.

Harvard scientists reverse the ageing process

That could, however, change. In October 2014, Stanford neurology professor Tony Wyss-Coray launched the first such human trial. Infusions of blood plasma from young donors are being given to elderly Alzheimer’s patients. We’ll know by the end of this year if the old myth is real after all.

Scientists find genetic switch to reverse aging in mice

Recommended: A Reminder That Aging Won’t Stop, No Matter What You Do 

But if it is, it won’t be cause for unqualified celebration. New questions of ethics will arise. The ability to stall or even reverse the impact of conditions such as Alzheimer’s would be truly wonderful.

Reversing Aging Processes

But is natural aging something we should hope to stave off as long as possible? Would this technology’s wider application just contribute more to our admittedly insatiable lust for youth? Would it contribute more to the disparity in conditions of life between the wealthy and the poor?

Researchers Reverse Aging Process

Harvard Scientists Claim to Reverse Aging in Mice

Scientists reverse ageing process in mice

All jokes aside: These questions are real, and not meant to sound anti-science. This could truly be a truly stunning discovery, and certainly the general trend in science over history has been toward lengthening lifespan. Could anyone alive today complain that/if they got to live past 60?

Scientists reverse aging in human

Nonetheless, science has to answer to ethics. With great power comes great responsibility. Something something Spiderman.

Read more: This Is What Your Older Self Would Tell You About Aging Gracefully