Sixteenth-century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory is one of history’s most famous female serial killers. She tortured and killed scores of girls, often her own servants, in myriad horrible ways—sticking pins under their fingernails, even biting their flesh. But the less-verifiable rumor that has dogged her legacy is that she bathed in the blood of virgins, believing it would keep her youthful. It didn’t work. She died in 1614.
Fast-forward to the present, when modern medicine has extended our life expectancy considerably, without the use of young blood—until now.
While taking a dunk in a tub of O-neg is still not going to keep your skin from wrinkling, an intense new study published in Nature Medicine yesterday offers the possibility that introducing young blood to the inside of the body could keep the mind young. In the study, injections of blood from young mice significantly improved the memory of older mice.
Let’s quickly make all the responsible caveats one should when reporting on research that could easily be blown out of proportion: It’s just one study; it’s mice, not humans; more research is definitely necessary.
All that said, this is pretty cool.
To start, the California researchers connected the bodies of mice in pairs of two, sometimes two old mice, sometimes one old and one young—creating, essentially, conjoined twins. Then they looked at how thousands of different genes were expressed in the brain. When old mice were paired with young mice, they found that many of the genes that changed their expression in the old mice’s brains were located in the hippocampus—a part of the brain that is key to memory.