Grandchildren beware! According to two different, delightfully macabre studies, the elixir of life is in blood. Young blood.
The Times' report on this news might as well carry Bram Stoker's byline.
The research builds on centuries of speculation that the blood of young people contains substances that might rejuvenate older adults.
Centuries! The story doesn't specify as to who exactly was doing the speculating, but presumably it concerned pale people with long fingernails and high cheekbones who star in Jim Jarmusch movies.
The speculation continued in dark, frigid little towns named after the hometowns of ancient heros.
In the 1950s, Clive M. McCay of Cornell University and his colleagues tested the notion by delivering the blood of young rats into old ones. To do so, they joined rats in pairs by stitching together the skin on their flanks. After this procedure, called parabiosis, blood vessels grew and joined the rats’ circulatory systems. The blood from the young rat flowed into the old one, and vice versa.
Dr. McCay's delightful research fell by the wayside until we gained a greater understanding of stem cells and the role they play in maintaining vitality in human tissue.
Then one day, Dr. Thomas Rando and his colleagues were sitting on a pile of human skulls inside the crypt at Stanford University, when suddenly
Dr. Rando and his colleagues wondered what signals the old stem cells would receive if they were bathed in young blood. To find out, they revived Dr. McCay’s experiments.
The older mice became stronger and looked younger. They had finally destroyed Death! Ha ha!
But the younger mice, oh, those poor little younger mice!
The young mice, on the other hand, had effectively grown prematurely old. Their muscles healed more slowly, and their stem cells did not turn into new cells as quickly as before the procedure.
Dr. Amy Wagers and Dr. Saul Villeda both built on Rando's findings—Wagers isolated a protein found in young mice that revived the hearts and bones of old mice, while Villeda found that old mice with young blood performed better in memory tests. Tests on humans are sure to follow.
Villeda shares your opinion of his research: “To be honest, it’s still pretty insane for me."
Another doctor who heads the Neuroinflammation Research Center at the Cleveland Clinic summarized the research thusly: "It sounds terribly, terribly weird, I have to say. But it’s a good way to go.”
Wait, what's "a good way to go?" For the old to perpetually stave off death—is this "a good way to go?" Or is it "a good way to go" to sacrifice your budding life for an elder who won't squander youth?