Maybe Ponce de Leon should have considered becoming a vampire. My just-out magazine article, "Old Brain, New Tricks: What Blood's Got to Do with It," highlights the work of a couple of wild and crazy guys named Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, and his erstwhile graduate student, Saul Villeda, now a full-blown PhD himself. Against all odds, the intrepid duo (with help from many others in the Wyss-Coray lab and beyond) showed that old blood can gum up a young brain.
Okay, well, so that's a bummer. But the real intrigue of Wyss-Coray, Villeda et al.'s research lies in tantalizing hints that the inverse - "young blood can soup up an old brain" - quite possibly may be true as well. Or, as the article puts it:
Aging takes a toll on all tissues, but its wrath is reserved especially for tissues with low regenerative potential — for instance, the brain. What Villeda and Wyss-Coray found - in mice, to be sure - was that old blood has a detrimental effect on the brain. The hope: We humans might someday be able to rejuvenate our own aging brains with as-yet-unidentified factors circulating in young blood.
Now, don't go dancing on down to your local blood bank looking for young blood just yet. Blood products, like pharmaceutical drugs, are regulated by the FDA, which demands evidence of efficacy in humans — something that's still a long way down the road.