Monday, May 5, 2014

‘Remarkable’ Therapy Makes Old Mice Young, May Hit Clinic This Year

A futuristic anti-aging approach, variously described and utilized by three different Harvard and Stanford groups this week, may hit the clinic by year’s end.

The research all began with “heterochronic parabiosis.” That is, old mice were hooked up to young mice via their circulatory systems— and experienced tissue rejuvenation. Harvard teams then winnowed out of young blood a protein called growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11). In mice, this factor appeared to reverse aging in both mind and muscle; generated new blood vessels, muscles, and neurons; and boosted cognition.

“In terms of the neurogenesis, I was surprised, first of all, that parabiosis and GDF11 had any effect on the central nervous system (CNS),” Harvard University neuroscientist Lee Rubin told Bioscience Technology by email. Rubin was senior author on a Science paper this week detailing the effect of parabiosis and GDF11 on the brain.  His crew found that GDF11, injected into the brain, improved rodents’ sense of smell following an increase in olfactory neurons and blood vessels.

“Because of the presence of the blood-brain barrier, there were no guarantees that circulating systemic factors would alter CNS function.  In our studies, however, we showed that at least some of the effects are on the vasculature, and this doesn't require that the active factors enter the brain,” Rubin said.

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