Young mice have a lot of the protein, called GDF-11, old mice less so. When they injected the protein into the blood of older mice, their hearts took on a youthful vigor. The heart walls, which thicken with age, were youthfully thin and the heart tissue otherwise looked like that of a younger animal.
Fox News quoted Dr. Amy Wagers, who was one of the lead researchers on the study.
“The older hearts really did look almost the same at a gross anatomy level. I’m certain there are still some differences, but it was quite dramatic how much rejuvenation (there was),” Wagers said.The scientists are excited for a few reasons. One, because the mouse heart and human heart age similarly, so it’s not unlikely that similar factors control the aging in both. Also, humans do have GDF-11 in the blood. This all suggests that GDF-11 could similarly help older people be more young at heart. They'll be working toward testing this protein in clinical trials, which they expect could take 4-5 years to start.
Wagers, we should point out, is a long-time member of our grants working group that reviews our grant applications and formerly trained with CIRM grantee Irv Weissman at Stanford.
In a press release about the work, Wagers said:
“It’s been observed for many, many years that when aging occurs it affects multiple body systems sort of in a semi-synchronous way, and this suggests that there may be some common signal that drives the body’s response to getting older. We hypothesized that this common signal might be a substance that was traveling in the bloodstream, because the bloodstream accesses organs throughout the body.”Here’s a video Harvard produced about the work, which was published May 9 in the journal Cell.