Researchers at Harvard have discovered a protein that appears to actually reverse multiple signs of aging, in everything from appearance to stamina. Called GDF11, scientists gave the protein to older mice and those mice showed improvement in every organ system, reversing the DNA damage that is part of the aging process. The protein shows such promise that scientists are considering testing the protein on humans, who also carry the same GDF11 protein, which could potentially mean that someday we could have a better way to fight – and even cure – diastolic heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute studied the GDF11 protein and found that it appeared in higher concentration in younger mice. So they studied the protein in two different ways. First they linked the circulatory system of older mice with younger mice to allow a continuous flow of the younger mouse’s protein-rich blood in the older mouse. Second, the scientists injected the mice GDF11-rich doses directly. The end result was that these protein-enriched mice showed evidence of a reversal in cell damage, which made muscle and organs actually function more like those of a younger mouse.
The effect appeared in every organ system, including the brain and heart. Mice had an increase in brain stem cells, were able to smell better and their hearts seemed to be stronger as well. Increased blood flow to the brain also meant that, at least in these mice, it appeared to be possible to reverse the cognitive impact of aging to some degree. So what does that mean for people? Human trials could begin in as few as three to five years, and right now the project is looking for venture capital funding, which could mean that the breakthrough could change the way we are impacted by aging in the not-too-distant future.