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Old blood carries risks for brain

New transfusion process between young, old mice helps pinpoint effects

By
11:00am, November 22, 2016
mouse hippocampus

FADING YOUTH  Young blood doesn’t kick-start nerve cell division (red cells, left image) in the hippocampus of an old mouse (second from right). And factors in old blood interfere with the process in the brain of a young mouse (second from left).

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Harmful factors circulating in old blood may be partly responsible for the mental decline that can come with age, a small study in mice suggests. 

Irina Conboy of the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues devised a new way to mingle blood in two mice that didn’t involve stitching their bodies together, as in previous experiments (SN: 5/31/14, p. 8). Instead, researchers used a microfluidic device to shuttle blood, a process that precisely controlled the timing and amount of blood transferred between the mice. The method, reported online November 22 in Nature Communications, allows more precise tests of blood’s influence on aging, the researchers believe.

Old mice benefited in some ways from infusions of young blood, experiments with four young-old pairs of mice revealed. With young blood around, old muscles were better able to recover after an injury. And young blood seemed to improve old livers in some tests.

But young blood didn’t seem to help one measure of brain health. After transfusions of young blood, old mice still had lower numbers of newborn nerve cells in the hippocampus, a brain structure important for learning and memory. What’s more, old blood reduced the number of newborn nerve cells in young mice. This damage happened quickly, after just one blood exchange, the researchers found. The results suggest that old blood contains components that harm brain cells, an insight that makes scientists eager to identify those factors.

Citations

J. Rebo et al. A single heterochronic blood exchange reveals rapid inhibition of multiple tissues by old blood. Nature Communications. Published online Nov. 22, 2016. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13363.

Further Reading

L. Sanders. Young blood proven good for old brain. Science News. Vol. 185, May 31, 2014, p. 8.

M. Rosen. Broken bones heal with young blood, how remains a mystery. Science News Online, May 19, 2015.

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