Blood Protein Rejuvenates Aging Heart

A molecule found only in the blood of young mice dramatically reverses thickening and stiffening of the heart muscle in old mice.

By Dan Cossins | May 10, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, RAMAUsing proteomics in combination with a 19th-century surgical technique in which the circulatory systems of two mice are joined together, researchers have demonstrated that a protein found only in the blood of young mice reverses the effects of aging in old mice, according to a study published this week (May 9) in Cell.

“I think it’s a stunning result that, for the first time, points at a secreted protein that maintains the heart in a young state,” cardiologist Deepak Srivastava of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco, who was not involved with the research, told Nature. “That’s pretty remarkable.”

Heart failure in elderly people is often caused by cardiac hypertrophy, a thickening of the heart muscle that results in the shrinking of the chambers within. To understand what causes this age-related thickening, and to search for a way to reverse it, stem cell biologists from Harvard University tested the effect of circulating factors in young blood on aging hearts.

To do so, they turned to a centuries-old technique called heterochronic parabiosis, in which two live animals of different ages are surgically joined together to share blood circulation. Having surgically linked the blood supply of five 2-year-old mice with five 2-month-old mice, the researchers found that, after 4 weeks of exposure to young blood, the older mice’s heart muscles had dramatically thinned and softened.

Using protein-analysis techniques to narrow down the list of what could be responsible for this reversal, the researchers identified a molecule called growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF-11), a circulating factor in young mice that declines with age. The team then showed old mice treated with GDF-11 for 30 days experienced that same heart rejuvenation as those in the parabiosis experiment, demonstrating that the molecule—which also appears in human blood—may hold promise for treating cardiac aging.

“It’s conceivable that this is just an interesting mouse story,” Richard Lee of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute told ScienceNOW, “but we're hoping to get data that might tell us that it pertains to humans.”

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Avatar of: leoni


Posts: 1

May 10, 2013

Leave the mice alone they are a different species from human and you have no God give Permission to play/(experiment ) on them!

Avatar of: Jimbob


Posts: 2

May 10, 2013

I believe that Scientists have a vital role to play in discivering cures and other ways to improve  living conditions for ourselves and future generations to come

Avatar of: ice man75

ice man75

Posts: 1

May 10, 2013

Jayzus that's incredible & could help & save so many
Avatar of: Viper45428


Posts: 1

May 10, 2013

This could actually help people like me live longer than the mid 50's.  I'm doomed to heart disease because of bad genes, but if the process could be reversed, then I might actually get to see my grandchildren.

Avatar of: Adarsh Gupta K

Adarsh Gupta K

Posts: 1

May 10, 2013

AFFECT or EFFECT of circulating factors in young blood on aging hearts??

Avatar of: CUC


Posts: 1

May 11, 2013

The team should attempt to find the GDF-11 in other terrestrial mammals. If so, this could strengthen the evidence of GDF-11 being a protein that could "extend" human life expectency.

Avatar of: donnieray3


Posts: 2

May 11, 2013

it would nice if something was to come up before heart decease takes me and whom ever else that has this killer decease.


thank you

Don R Phillips

Avatar of: Paul Stein

Paul Stein

Posts: 237

May 13, 2013

Richard Lee's comment illustrates the current intactable translational divide.  People have seen the "issues" related to mouse research, but no one is willing to take action.  There needs to be the rapid development of a second, animal model-level analysis prior to human testing using much more clinically relevant, non-micro animals such as dogs, pigs, sheep, and non-human primates.

Avatar of: ProfessorK


Posts: 11

May 21, 2013

Not entirely onboard with the method to get here, despite the result.

Avatar of: ClevelandKen


Posts: 7

May 21, 2013

Considering the results, it's hard to argue that this test was necessary. And from the likes of the experiment, were any mice harmed?

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