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Blood And Brain Aging

Scientists are studying the relationship between blood and brain aging.

A plastic skull with plastic brain on a table

A protein called VCAM1 that can be found in the blood has been identified as a potential cause for premature aging in the brain. (Ars Electronica via Martin Hieslmair, Flickr)

Something in our blood appears to play a key role in aging. Studying blood may give us valuable ways to combat it.

Evidence comes from the experimental procedure called parabiosis. In laboratories, it’s when an old mouse is joined surgically to a young mouse, so that they share a common circulatory system and blood supply. The tissues of the old mouse were rejuvenated by exposure to young blood.

The Rejuvenating Effect

The research is aimed at identifying the blood substances responsible for the rejuvenating effect, so biomedical scientists can make a drug with the same effect. Through the process they also found that joining a young mouse with an old one also causes premature brain aging in the young mouse.

In 2018, a large team of American and German researchers identified a protein called Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule 1, or VCAM1 that may be responsible for this premature aging. When young rats are injected with VCAM1, they show signs of brain deterioration.

The researchers found that when they blocked the action of the naturally higher levels of VCAM1 in the blood of old mice, it had a rejuvenating effect on their brains.

If you want to keep reading about how scientists are studying the aging process, you could read about the gene that can make people live ten percent longer. Or if you’re reading this and wondering how the human body makes blood, click here.

Thank you to Nady Braidy of the University of New South Wales for reviewing this episode’s script.

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