A protein found in the blood of young mice can revive the heart health and improve brain and skeletal muscle functions in ageing mice, a new study has found.
Researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) have found that injections of a protein known as GDF11 in older mice equivalent in age to that of about a 70-year-old human improve their exercise capability.
Professors Amy Wagers and Lee Rubin of Harvard's Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (HSCRB) conducted the study by circulating the blood of a younger mouse through the older one.
The blood of young mouse apparently had some rejuvenating effects on muscle repair after injury. It also improved the smell detecting region of the brains of the older mouse.
"GDF11 is naturally found in much higher concentrations in young mice than in older mice, and raising its levels in the older mice has improved the function of every organ system thus far studied," Doug Melton, co-director of HSCI, said in a statement.
The protein, GDF11, is found in both humans and mice. Researchers hope the finding holds clue to treating neurodegenerative diseases in humans.
It has also raised hopes that GDF11 may prove to be a possible treatment for diastolic heart failure, a fatal condition in the elderly.
"This should give us all hope for a healthier future. We all wonder why we were stronger and mentally more agile when young," Melton said, adding that it is so because of "the higher levels of the protein GDF11 we have when young."
"There seems to be little question that, at least in animals, GDF11 has an amazing capacity to restore aging muscle and brain function," he added.
Researchers Rubin and Wagers said they expected to have GDF11 in initial human clinical trials within three to five years to treat diseases like Alzheimer's.
"It isn't out of question that GDF11 might be capable of slowing some of the cognitive defects associated with Alzheimer's disease, a disorder whose main risk factor is aging itself," Rubin said.
Wagers added: "I would wager that the results of this work, together with the other work, will translate into a clinical trial and a treatment. But of course that's just a wager."