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Donating Youth to Yourself

Posted by Mark Katakowski on

In my previous blog post, I discussed how repairing age-related damage that our bodies accrue can extend our healthspan, and possibly even our lifespan. In this post, I am going to discuss a specific method of health maintenance that we are pursuing at Forever Labs.

As we have discussed many times, multiple types of stem cells reside within our bone marrow. One particularly important type of stem cell in the bone marrow is the mesenchymal stem cell (MSC). MSCs possess the ability to build bone and connective tissue, and they provide critical support to the cells that produce our blood and immune systems. In addition, MSCs respond to injured tissue by redirecting inflammation and accelerating the healing process. For this reason, there are currently over 500 registered clinical trials using MSCs for treatments of ailments including heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s, and more.

I have personally spent the last 15 years developing MSC therapies, mostly for the treatment of stroke, brain injury, and brain tumor. Throughout this work, I have observed the stunning therapeutic qualities of MSCs, but have also observed the loss of these therapeutic qualities with age. In fact, we and others have found that treating old mice with genetically-matched young MSCs produces better outcomes after brain injuries than when treating them with age-matched old MSCs. This is one of the reasons why we founded Forever Labs; you can store your young stem cells to be used in stem cell therapies of injury and disease later in life.

However, what if we don’t wait for disease before treating ourselves with our own young stem cells?

As explained in my previous post, stem cells play an important role in health maintenance, and the decline in stem cells with age contributes to the age-related decline in our health.

The question is: Can we rejuvenate ourselves by transplanting our young stem cells into our older self?

There is evidence that we can.

In 2011, a group of researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington set out to test if the declining function of MSCs was responsible for age-related osteoporosis [1]. To test this hypothesis, Jinhui Shen and her group transplanted old mice with MSCs from old or young donor mice. To their surprise, transplanting young MSCs into old mice not only slowed their loss of bone density, but also increased the lifespan of the treated mice by over 16%.

In 2013, a similar experiment was conducted by Kovina et al., where older mice were treated with genetically-matched whole bone marrow from younger mice [2] (see Ben Buller's previous blog post). Similar to the results observed by Shen et al., Kovina’s team found that young bone marrow transplantation also significantly increased the lifespan of older mice.

In addition to these transplantation experiments, there has been a growing interest in the rejuvenating effect of ‘young blood’ upon older animals. For example, in 2014 Villeda et al., reported that administration of young blood plasma into aged mice improved age-related cognitive impairments in the treated mice [3]. Not only did the animals display cognitive improvements, but molecular and structural improvements were found in the brains of mice treated with young blood as well.

The bone marrow produces more blood than any other organ.

In addition, the bone marrow produces many soluble factors (proteins, cytokins, microvesicles, RNAs, etc.) that significantly alter the blood plasma profile. Thus, there is reason to believe that the 'young blood effect' could be conferred by rejuvenating the bone marrow itself. Indeed, we suggest that this might underpin the life-extending effects seen in the studies conducted by Shen and Kovina.

It is our goal at Forever Labs to conduct the first transplantation of a person’s own young bone marrow into their older self for the purposes of rejuvenation. To this end, we intend to test the effects of self-donation of young bone marrow stem cells in registered clinical trials.

We just started our own experiment where we are testing the hypothesis that young-to-old bone marrow stem cell transplantation in mice leads to increased lifespan and better health outcomes such as delayed cognitive deficits. It is our goal to better understand and optimize the young-to-old bone marrow transplantation effect, and eventually, to offer the ability for our clients to donate their own younger bone marrow stem cells to their older selves.

In future blog posts, I will be sharing the design of our experiments, and of course, the results will be published in peer-reviewed scientific literature.

1. Shen J, et al. Transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells from young donors delays aging in mice. Sci Rep. 2011, 1:67.

2. Kovina MV, et al. Effect on lifespan of high yield non-myeloablating transplantation of bone marrow from young to old mice. Front Genet. 2013, 4:144.

3. Villeda et al., Young blood reverses age-related impairments in cognitive function and synaptic plasticity in mice. Nat Med. 2014, 20(6):659-63.

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