Research out of the Washington University School of Medicine reveals that scientists enabled older mice to live longer by using the blood of young mice. The process didn’t quite mirror that of mythological stories involving young blood, however, instead focusing on a specific protein that is found at higher levels in young mice and lower levels in older mice.
Certain stories from antiquity reveal that the idea of young blood being a sort of fountain of youth isn’t new, though they were ultimately misguided (and often gruesome). A newly published study sheds some scientific light on the matter, revealing that a protein found in young blood may be key to slowing aging — at least in lab mice.
The protein found at high levels in young mouse blood is an enzyme called eNAMPT, and it plays an important role in cells’ ability to make energy. Whereas young mouse blood has this enzyme in abundance, the protein declines with aging — in humans as well as mice — as other issues, such as weight gain and cognitive issues, start increasing.
The study focused on increasing the levels of eNAMPT in the blood of older mice rather than using transfusions of whole young mouse blood like past studies. In doing this, the researchers found a host of improvements in the older mice, including better insulin production, improved eyesight, more energy, and better cognitive performance. In addition, mice with higher eNAMPT levels lived longer than other normal mice.
The study’s senior author Shin-ichiro Imai, MD, PhD, explained:
We have found a totally new pathway toward healthy aging. That we can take eNAMPT from the blood of young mice and give it to older mice and see that the older mice show marked improvements in health — including increased physical activity and better sleep — is remarkable.