Blood From Youthful Mice Makes Codgers Sharper on Cognitive Tasks

By Ashley P. Taylor | October 23, 2012 11:29 am

spacing is important

Our cognitive abilities tend to decline when we get older, as we have trouble remembering old facts and skills and learning new ones. But a little young blood reverses some ill effects of old age, at least in mice, researchers reported at the Society for Neuroscience conference last week.

Neuroscientist Saul Villeda and his team gave elderly mice infusions of blood from younger, sprightlier members of their species. The old mice fortified with young blood improved on learning and memory tasks, such as finding a platform submerged in water and getting conditioned (think Pavlov’s dogs) to fear situations associated with electric shocks.

Last year, Villeda and his colleagues published a study showing that the effect went the other way: Young mice were injected with blood from their older counterparts, after which they did worse on the memory tests than young mice with only their own blood in their veins. The researchers also used another method to give young mice old blood. They surgically hooked up the circulatory systems of pairs of mice, one young and one old, to let the blood of the two mice intermix. (They also paired mice of the same age, for comparison.) After a few days, the mice’s brains showed different amounts of neuron growth: The youngster grew fewer neurons than either of two young mice joined together. The old mouse in the duo, on the other hand, had more new neurons than each of a pair of elderly mice did.

The researchers aren’t yet sure what about young blood improves cognition, but hope this avenue of research might one day lead to memory-boosting therapies for people, as well. But rumor has it that one man, at least, has already tested out the rejuvenating properties of young blood; the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il supposedly injected himself with the blood of young virgins in hopes of fending off old age.

Mouse image courtesy of angeladellatorre/Flickr


  • Jumblepudding

    The newest anti-aging supplement after resveratrol, oxaloacetate and C60? THE BLOOD OF CHILDREN.

  • floodmouse

    What a story for Halloween. This reminds me of like a thousand vampire & horror movies I’ve seen.

  • Dr David Steenblock

    The blood of infants and especially umbilical cord blood is the best for rejuvenation. I measured the growth factors in umbilical cord blood and there is at least a thousand times more growth factors in umbilical cord blood as compared to the blood of a 90 year old. The average 90 year old human has almost undetectable levels while the umbilical cord blood has levels of 10,000 microgram/dl of all of the growth factors. In addition to these growth factors, the umbilical cord blood has stem cells which are quite vigorous in regard to their ability to repair and to regenerate tissues. At this time we are beginning to consider testing an older person’s blood for HLA antigens and obtaining a match of umbilical cord blood for the older person. Then these HLA antigen identical stem cells would be placed in their bone marrow where they should repopulate their body with fresh, vigorous stem cells and growth factors. Other additional treatments to prepare the older person’s microenvironment for the new stem cells should be done either before or even after the stem cell transplants are given in order to help the new stem cells thrive in this old contaminated environment.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar