Those suffering from an aging brain, heart or muscles can take a small breath of relief, thanks to researchers studying weakened hearts in older mice at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). They have discovered from the mice they studied that brain and muscle tissue can be reversed with protein therapy. By using protein therapy, it was apparent that brain and muscle function had improved overall in the aging mice.

While animals grow older, the aging brain and muscle groups lose many of their qualities that they retained during their youthful years. P, but protein therapy used in the Harvard study shows that by utilizing the protein growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF 11), the muscles and brain revitalized to their youthful state of being.

The research team, including Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (HSCRB) and HSCI members Amy Wagers and Lee Rubin, released two different papers. Posted in Science AAAS, the results go into further detail regarding protein therapy with GDF 11 and how this reversed aging effects on a mouse’s brain and skeletal muscles.

As the study shows, the leading result of using protein therapy with GDF 11 was an increase in blood flow, allowing aging mice to more quickly repair damaged brain and muscle tissue after a sustained concussion. Part of the overall study included hooking two mice together (one older, one younger) in order for the both of them to share their blood supplies with each other. While the previous study only injected GDF inside the aging mouse, the other part of the study allowed younger blood to be transferred and used by the older mouse, resulting with reversed damage to the body.

In the research study, the mice that were selected had a brain function that was equal to that of a 70-year-old human adult. Since levels of GDF 11 were found to be at significantly increased levels in the younger mice in comparison to the aging mice, the protein GDF 11 was subsequently injected into the older mice.

Other studies using GDF 11 had shown that tested hearts have also greatly experienced benefits from the protein injection, despite the fact that this form of protein therapy is not targeted at aiding the heart. Nevertheless, the hearts and bodies of animals studied showed significant improvement after treatment, giving researchers the optimism that this could help humans in the near future.

Acting as both co-director of HSCRB and co-chairman of HSCI, Doug Melton believes the study “should give us all hope for a healthier future.” He goes on to state that this study could possibly explain why humans are much more mentally and physically healthier when young, while facing brain and muscle difficulties when aging. However, the power of GDF 11 found in the animals studied showed great potential for protein therapy to be used towards reversing aging brain and muscle damage in humans. As stated by Rubin and Wagers, aging humans suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other age-related illnesses might be able to undergo protein therapy within the next 3-5 years, if all goes according to plan.

Harvard Gazette
Science AAAS
Cell Press
IFL Science