Science may not be able to prove the existence of vampires (yet), but it agrees with the undead corpuscle consumers on one count … young blood is better for you than old blood. In a new study, researchers found that bone fractures in mice healed more quickly when the blood around them was from a younger rodent. Is this why we never see Dracula wearing a cast?
The research was conducted by scientists from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and from Duke University. They wanted to find out if young blood could make old bodies heal as if they were young again.
According to a report on the research in the current edition of Nature Communications, the experiment sounds like something more out of Victor Frankenstein’s lab than Count Dracula’s castle. A young mouse and an old mouse were given bone fractures and then – here’s where it gets creepy – a layer of skin was removed from each and the wounded areas were stitched together. This is apparently a 150-year-old, somewhat-experimental surgical procedure called parabiosis. The blood vessels in the wounds fuse together, allowing the hearts to pump the same blood through both of the bodies.
The scientists found that the blood mixing allowed the fractures in the older mice to heal faster while the younger mice healed slower than normal. The bones of the older mice had higher levels of the protein beta-catenin which appears to stimulate the growth of cells in bone marrow to hold the fractured ends together until they join and heal.
Does this mean life will become a horror movie as old people create farms of teenagers to eventually join them at the hip and provide an endless supply of the elixir of eternal youth? (Note to self: call agent with new movie idea)
Fortunately not. Allowing humans to share circulatory systems is fraught with health risks and synthesizing blood (a la True Blood) will be extremely difficult on a massive scale. The next step is to isolate the molecule the stimulates the generation of beta-catenin and create drugs that allow the old bone cells to act like young cells again.
To be on the safe side, stay away from older folks wanting to show you their new surgical scar.