If three discoveries in mice reported on Sunday are applicable to people, making old brains and old muscles perform like young ones may require simply a blood transfusion.
In two of the studies, giving the blood of young mice to old ones undid age-related impairments in the brain, reversing declines in learning and memory and boosting the creation of new neurons and the ability of the brain to change its structure in response to experience.
The third study found that a protein in the blood of young mice improved the ability of old ones (comparable to a 70-year-old person) to exercise.
“I think the study is quite wonderful,” said neuroscientist Eric Kandel of Columbia University, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in medicine for his studies on the molecular basis of memory, referring to one of the brain papers.
“It suggests there may be diffusible factors in the blood that are age-dependent, and if you can isolate these substances you might be able to give them as dietary supplements,” added Kandel, who was not involved in the studies and at 84 continues to conduct research.