Do you think vampires are real? I’m talking about blood-drinking, forever-young ghouls of the night who shapeshift into bats and are weak to crucifixes and sunlight.
You might see a few this weekend, but none of them will drain you of your blood (I hope). However, the idea that blood can deliver eternal youth may not be so fictional after all.
As you know, when you grow old, your body starts to deteriorate. Muscles are harder to build and easier to lose, metabolism slows, and organs which have accumulated damage over your lifetime stop working as effectively. This is an unavoidable certainty of life—we all grow old and eventually die.
In recent decades however, scientists have shown something super interesting—something that calls into question much of what we think we know about aging. Scientists have used an experimental method known as parabiosis to show that age isn’t necessarily the irreversible march we like to think it is.
Parabiosis is essentially when two mice are joined at the hip so that they share a circulatory system. In the past, scientists have used this experimental method to study the blood and it certainly taught them a lot, but it was when scientists did this experiment with mice of different ages that they saw something really interesting.
When you join two old mice or two young mice together, nothing remarkable happens to one or the other. But when an old mouse is joined with a young mouse, the old mouse’s injuries heal faster, organs function better, blood and immune function is improved, and much more. It essentially reverts in age, all just by sharing blood with a young mouse.
This set of experiments made it clear that not only are some aspects of aging potentially reversible, but also that these anti-aging or age-reversing factors could be identified in the blood and isolated.
So could someone like Count Dracula live forever by drinking the blood of the young?
Well technically, drinking blood isn’t the same as having blood in circulation, so that wouldn’t work anyways.
But more importantly, people have been getting blood transfusions for centuries now and no one has spontaneously grown younger. Also, a number of companies have launched in recent years which are researching if this technology could work in humans (without fusing them together of course) but so far, nothing has been effective.
Considering mice only live a few years while humans live upwards of 80, this isn’t so surprising— humans and mice are quite different. But there’s no telling what the future holds.
All of this raises super interesting questions for me. Imagine that years from now, you could go into the doctor’s office and get a shot that made you 20 years younger.
Would you do it? Or if there was a way to keep the human body going indefinitely, would it be wrong to pursue it?
These questions are in the realm of science fiction and maybe will be forever. People have been searching for the fountain of youth and immortality since the dawn of time; this might just be another lost cause. But it’s possible that with more research, scientists will figure out exactly what aging is and how to slow it, stop it, or even reverse it.
So this Halloween, you probably don’t need to worry about a vampire draining you to continue its eternal reign of terror, but there is certainly something to be said about the power of blood.
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