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'Vampire cure' uses fresh blood to mend broken hearts

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 10th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The vampires of legend would raise come nightfall from their coffins to search for fresh blood to consume to extend their eternal life. Now, it appears that Count Dracula was on to something. Scientists have discovered that a dose of a younger person's blood can rejuvenate aging hearts.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In fact, the "vampire-like" procedure reversed the life-threatening thickening and stiffening of the heart that occurs with age.

First performed on lab mice, the researchers believe it will lead to the first drug to mend "broken hearts" in elderly men and women.

"We need to work as hard as we can, to figure out if this discovery can be turned into a treatment for heart failure in our ageing patients," Researcher Richard Lee, a professor at Harvard Medical School said.

"Sewing together" two mice of different ages, the procedure allowed young blood to flow into the older animal's body, and vice versa.

In a month's time, the heart of the older animal went from being stiff and struggling to fill with blood to resembling that of the much younger creature.

The research team then spent months trying to identify the revitalizing component of the young blood and eventually hit upon a hormone called GDF-11. Giving old mice jabs of the hormone helped rejuvenate their hearts.

"We are very excited about it because it opens a new window on heart failure," Lee said. "This is the coolest thing I have ever been part of.'

Similar experiments, in which the circulatory systems of two mice have been connected, have led to old brains being given a new lease of life.
 
Researchers are now proposing giving people in middle-age regular jabs of blood drawn from twenty-somethings. The Harvard team, however, doesn't have such a radical approach. Their plan is to give GDF-11 as a drug and hope to test it on patients for the first time in four to five years.

They also want to find out if the hormone can help revitalize other ageing body parts and tissues.

"If some age-related disease is due to a loss of circulating hormone, then it's possible that restoring levels of that hormone could be beneficial," Professor Amy Wagers of Harvard said. "We are hoping that some day, age-related human heart failure might be treated in this way."


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