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Essential Science: Can blood plasma therapy reduce aging?

The research suggests that the process of plasma exchange might present a means to unlock the human body’s regenerative capacities. This is a limitation with the human body unlike certain other animals.

New research

The new research comes from University of California (Berkley), supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and it looks at what happens when half of blood plasma is substituted for a mixture of saline and albumin. Study results indicate that this mixture is capable of reversing the signs of aging as well as rejuvenating muscle, brain and liver tissue. These outcomes have been observed in older mice.

Blood plasma is a yellowish-colored liquid component of blood that holds the blood cells of whole blood in suspension. It is the liquid part of the blood that carries cells and proteins throughout the body.

The research area came out of a serendipitous discovery when scientists found that when they sought to engineer conjoined twins from both young and old mice (when the rodents share blood and organs), they were able to rejuvenate tissues with the older mice.

This led to further research whereby an age-reversing effect was accomplished by simply diluting the blood plasma of old mice. With this new step the plasma of younger mice was no longer required.

US labs are working to find cures and treatments for the novel coronavirus  including research into ...

US labs are working to find cures and treatments for the novel coronavirus, including research into use of convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients
Alex Edelman, AFP/File

This was shown through a series of experiments where half of the blood plasma of old mice was subtitled for with a mixture of saline and albumin. It is thought that there is a build-up of particular proteins that occurs with age and these acts as an inhibitor with tissue maintenance and repair. It follows that diluting these proteins with blood exchange could reverse this.

The studies are based on diluting the blood plasma by switching out part of a mouse’s blood plasma with a solution of saline and the protein called albumin, with the observed effect being a type of ‘molecular reset button’.

This led to an observed rejuvenation effect on the brain, liver and muscle. What appears to be happening is that age-elevated, and potentially harmful, factors are being purged from the blood of older mice.

The technology used is called therapeutic plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) through which a range of autoimmune diseases can currently be treated.

Next steps

Based on successful study outcomes, the science team are putting together plans to finalize clinical trials. These controlled experiments may determine whether modified plasma exchange in humans can help to tackle age-associated diseases. A secondary area will be to assess if this approach can improve the overall health of elderly people.

Hydroxychloroquine   convalescent plasma and herd immunity are among some of the once-obscure terms ...

Hydroxychloroquine, convalescent plasma and herd immunity are among some of the once-obscure terms becoming household words in the coronavirus era
KAROLY ARVAI, POOL/AFP/File

The types of age-associated diseases that the researchers are keen to treat include muscle wasting, neuro-degeneration, Type 2 diabetes and immune deregulation.

Research paper

The research has been published in the journal Aging, where the research paper is titled “Rejuvenation of three germ layers tissues by exchanging old blood plasma with saline-albumin.”

Essential Science

This article forms part of Digital Journal’s Essential Science column. Each week we survey the major science stories of the week and bring you a topical item.

Artist s impression of a silicon CMOS architecture for a spin-based quantum computer.

Artist’s impression of a silicon CMOS architecture for a spin-based quantum computer.
© Illustration by Tony Melov / UNSW Newsroom

Last week the focus was with quantum computing. The technology firm Honeywell has constructed the world’s most powerful quantum computer. The machine is called the H0, and it has reached a quantum volume of 64.

The week before the subject with the biological advance with a so-termed ‘poisoned arrow’. This multiple-molecular mechanism is designed to defeat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Such developments are critical in the battle against antimicrobial resistant organisms.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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