ANDREW HATCH ’17
For generations, the fountain of youth has appeared as a symbol of immortality in cultures throughout the world.
Though it has remained illusive, new scientific research might exist inside of us. In a lecture on Monday, Oct. 26, Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray P’16 of Stanford Medical School spoke to a large group of students and faculty about his research on human blood. Wyss-Coray’s research on blood focuses on how the composition of the fluid and the factors within it changes over the course our lives. Through his research, Wyss-Coray hopes to identify the proteins involved in the “language of cells” and then correlate changes in the composition of these proteins to ageing.
Wyss-Coray’s research has identified the protein eotaxin as a major correlate of aging. While typically involved in an immune response to allergies, the prevalence of this protein in blood has been shown to increase drastically over the course of a person’s life. Some studies have shown that those who live longer exhibit lower-than-expected volumes of eotaxin in the blood.
Moreover, research has already shown that the majority of aging is genetic, therefore, his findings that the decendents of those who lived to be over 100 also tend to live longer may be a result of their eotaxin levels. As a natural anti-inflammatory, the eotaxin protein naturally reduces the inflammation associated with certain allergies. Some studies suggest that certain anti-inflammatory drugs might help prevent the onset of specific neuro-degenerative disorders.
Additional studies suggest that injecting the blood plasma of younger mice into older mice shows an increase in cognitive function in the mice. In a series of studies, a colleague of Wyss-Coray at Stanford Medical School injected elderly mice with the blood plasma of younger mice.
A number of his findings defied the traditional aging models, though, further research is needed to see how long these effects last. This research suggests that the Fountain of Youth may not be at the farthest reaches of the Earth, but rather inside each of us.