PrintThere are all sorts of discoveries about reversing aging….

By  Lyle J. Dennis, M.D.As we age our organs change in deleterious ways. The heart may undergo a process called hypertrophy in which the walls become thickened and enlarged reducing function and eventually leading to heart failure.

In the current research, scientists wanted to see if this process occurred due to some aberrant signal in the bloodstream of older animals. To find out they performed the somewhat bizarre experiment called heterochronic parabiosis, which is a surgical method to join the circulation between animals of different ages, in this case young and old mice.

When this was done, after 4 weeks, the old mice exhibited a dramatic reversal of the age-related cardiac hypertrophy, restoring their hearts to a youthful state.

Next the team was able to isolate the causes. They found a single molecule called differentiation factor 11 (GDF11), a TGF-b superfamily family member, was responsible for this effect. The found that levels of GDF11 became reduced with age, and that when old animals received infusions of GDF11 their hearts also return to a youthful state.

The authors point out this does not prove GDF11 therapy will reverse cardiac aging in humans, though the molecule has been identified in human circulation and the potential is exciting.  There is also no evidence GDF11 would play a role in other types of tissue aging.

They conclude:

Future studies will be necessary to evaluate the role of GDF11 in human cardiac hypertrophy. We recognize that cardiac hypertrophy of aging is a multifactorial process and that the observed regression of cardiac hypertrophy in old mice exposed to a young circulation is unlikely to be attributable entirely to the replenishment of a single factor. Nonetheless, our results suggest exciting therapeutic possibilities for targeting cardiac hypertrophy of aging by restoring youthful levels of circulating GDF11.

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