Young blood isn't the fountain of youth scientists first thought it was

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A transfusion of young blood won’t help regain a lost youth and nor is it the secret to immortality, according to research by US and Swiss scientists.

Previous studies suggested the blood of younger mice can rejuvenate the muscles of older mice but the latest research shows the youth elixir protein those studies thought they’d identified actually prevents muscles from repairing.

The vampire-like replacement of old blood with young blood has long been reported to have anti-ageing effects. Harvard University researchers in 2013 linked GDF-11, a molecule in the blood, to this.

However, research in the journal Cell Metabolism found the opposite.

The study, by David Glass at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, used tests to more accurately measure GDF-11 (short for Growth Differentiation Factor 11).

They found that regularly injecting mice with pure GDF-11 causes muscle repair to worsen, resembling effects seen in older age.

“This is a carefully conducted study that is certain to generate a vigorous discussion about what role GDF-11 plays, if any, in ageing muscle,” says Se-Jin Lee, a molecular biologist at Johns Hopkins University who wasn’t involved in the research.

“I think that these new results definitely raise questions as to whether GDF-11 was really being exclusively detected in the prior paper. Clearly, these discrepancies will need to be resolved with additional studies.”

While giving GDF-11 was found to inhibit muscle regeneration in aged animals, developing new strategies to block the activity of GDF-11 might be an alternative strategy to helping age-related muscle conditions.

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