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From fatigue and weak muscles to memory problems and cardiovascular dangers, aging as they say isn’t for the faint of heart.
It’s a truth that’s inspired a search for the fountain of youth since Ponce de Leon landed in Florida.
Yet, while that mythical fountain was never discovered, researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center may have finally done what that Spanish explorer couldn’t…
Make an aging body youthful again.
And it all has to do with turning back the clock on your blood.
Capturing the power of young blood
You see, recent research has already demonstrated the power of young blood to rejuvenate older bodies.
It can make aging hearts beat stronger, muscles become stronger and thinking becomes sharper.
“An aging blood system, because it’s a vector for a lot of proteins, cytokines, and cells, has a lot of bad consequences for the organism,” says Emmanuelle Passegué, Ph.D., director of the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative, who’s been studying how blood changes with age. “A 70-year-old with a 40-year-old blood system could have a longer healthspan, if not a longer lifespan.”
However, it’s not like you can just head into your doctor’s office and ask to be hooked up to an IV of blood from a 20-year-old.
So those Columbia researchers set out to find a way to replicate the effects of young blood using a pill, specifically by rejuvenating the system that makes blood in the first place — your stem cells.
Basically, all of the blood cells in your body are created by a small number of stem cells found in your bone marrow.
Yet, over time, these cells start to change, producing fewer red blood cells (which can cause anemia) and fewer immune cells (which can increase your risk of infection). With age, they also have problems maintaining the integrity of their genomes, which can raise your risk of certain types of cancers.
This led the researchers to believe that if they could restore those stem cells to a younger state, they could restore your entire body to a younger state.
Aging stem cells and inflammation
To do so, the researchers had a few tricks up their sleeves…
First, they turned to exercise and a caloric-restricted diet — which have been found to regenerate stem cells found in other areas of the body, like the intestines.
Unfortunately, these options just didn’t do the trick for the stem cells that make your blood.
Transplanting old stem cells into young bone marrow also failed.
Even directly infusing young blood had no effect on rejuvenating old blood stem cells.
That’s when the researchers decided to take a closer look at the stem cells’ environment… the bone marrow.
“Blood stem cells live in a niche; we thought what happens in this specialized local environment could be a big part of the problem,” assistant researcher, Carl Mitchell, says.
And sure enough — that environment was exactly where the root problem behind stem cell aging was discovered.
The team found that aging in blood stem cells is due to inflammation, which leads to deterioration and dysfunction of the cells.
And they found that one inflammatory cytokine signal released from aging bone marrow, IL-1B, was critical in driving this process. That’s when they turned to an anti-inflammatory drug called anakinra, which is used to block inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
And guess what…
Stem cells from older animals treated with the drug miraculously became younger and healthier!
Even more youthful effects were achieved when IL-1B was prevented from exerting its inflammatory effects throughout the animal’s life.
In fact, the results were so remarkable that the researchers have now moved on to studying the same processes in humans, to determine if rejuvenating blood stem cells earlier in life, in middle age, could finally be the fountain of youth we’ve all been looking for.
The real anti-aging target: Inflammation
Of course, if you’re like me, your first thought was probably — this is great. My next thought was, well when they repurpose that drug as “anti-aging” it’s probably going to have a hefty price tag. And who knows who it will be offered to and when.
But inflammation as a root cause of destruction is nothing new, so we’ve got some backup…
I’ve written before on natural ways to reduce the inflammation and irritation patients with rheumatoid experience.
One of the most powerful compounds I’ve come across in the last couple of years that’s been researched to ease inflammation in general — but also in the case of rheumatoid arthritis — is thymoquinone, the active principle of Nigella sativa, the plant that produces black cumin seed oil.
Research published in the Journal of Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy even found thymoquinone reduced the expression of the IL-1 family of cytokines, of which IL-1b is a member.
I’m not saying it’s a miracle nutrient that will stop aging on a dime, but plenty of studies show it’s powerfully effective against inflammation, and that’s good enough for me.
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Will revitalizing old blood slow aging? – EurekAlert!
Overview of the IL-1 family in innate inflammation and acquired immunity — Library of Medicine