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Anti-Aging Solutions, And the Scientists Who Love Them

Young blood isn’t just good for vampires, it can apparently rejuvenate mice, too. According to a study released Sunday, scientists at Stanford University injected blood plasma from 3-month-old mice into 18-month-old mice and found that the older mice’s memory improved. Let’s set aside the “of men, not mice” question (do rodent results translate to humans?) and reflect for a moment on so-called breakthroughs in the endless quest for ways to stop, or even reverse, the ravages of age.

Here are five potential anti-aging solutions that received widespread media attention for the hope they offered to gerascophobes. Big research teams, big money and big enthusiasm appear to be common traits among them.

2014: Blood transfusions

Findings: Attempting to “recharge an old mouse’s brain so that it functions more like a younger one,” scientists used injections of plasma from younger mice. They found improvements in spatial learning and memory, as well as a better ability to recognize their environments. How does a scientist know when a mouse recognizes its environment? He trains it to freeze in fear, and when it freezes for longer, he assumes the mouse has a better recognition of its environment and thus its brain has the traits of a younger mind.

Source: Villeda and 17 colleagues

2013: Red wine

Findings: Scientists found that resveratrol, a natural chemical compound, stimulates the production of a serum that could have anti-aging benefits. The fact that resveratrol occurs naturally in grapes and cocoa might go some way in explaining why this study received plenty of attention.

Source: Hubbard and 30 colleagues

2012: Activating cells

Findings: Using old mice (and money from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and National Institutes of Health), researchers found that they could awaken a dormant pool of stem cells. When they did so, they found that muscles could repair themselves, making them behave like younger muscles.

Source: Chakkalakal and three colleagues

2011: Telomerase

Findings: By engineering mice to lack the enzyme telomerase, scientists found that the rodents became “prematurely decrepit.” Then, when they replaced the enzyme, the scientists found that they could reverse those signs of aging, causing the mice to bounce back. As with other studies mentioned here, the scientists mentioned some considerable drawbacks — including that telomerase appears to speed up the growth of existing cancerous tumors.

Source: Jaskelioff and 13 colleagues

2009: Caloric restriction

Mice Lifespans Findings: This has long been a vein in anti-aging research. As early as 1935, scientists were asking whether eating less could result in living longer. More recently though, a 20-year longitudinal study in rhesus monkeys found that calorie restriction (CR in the chart reproduced here) “delays the onset of age-associated pathologies and promotes survival.”

Source: Colman and 11 colleagues

Mona Chalabi is data editor at the Guardian US, and a columnist at New York Magazine. She was previously a lead news writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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