The fountain of youth may have been hiding within us all along. Researchers at Stanford University have found that it is possible to boost the growth of cells in the brains of old mice by infusing their blood with that of younger counterparts. In other words, reversing some of the effects of aging.
In one experiment, the circulatory systems of two mice were linked and their bloods allowed to intermingle. Once satisfactorily emulsified, the two brains of this newly created singular circulatory organism were extracted, and tissues from their hippocampus examined for changes. The older mice — those that received younger blood — demonstrated changes in the expression of 200 to 300 genes, especially those noted for their involvement with synaptic plasticity, which is fundamental to learning and memory.
These findings suggested that young blood was bringing the calcified neural connections of old mice back to life.
To see what effect this had on cognition in the aged rodents, the team gave intravenous injections of blood plasma, either young or old, to a further 12 mice, before subjecting them to a series of memory tests. In keeping with previous test results, the mice that had been injected with younger plasma outperformed the older counterpart.
Currently, there is little more than the high hopes of pharmaceutical giants and the egos of the individuals involved to suggest that this process will work in humans. We’re all going to have to age a little further before these findings could potentially be put to use. It would be naive, however, to ignore the prophecy already manifesting around this story. Namely, the supposition that whenever a teenage boy nicks himself with a razor while shaving for the first time, the fountain of youth trickles down his chin. Should we be ready with vials and cases of ice to harvest it?
In other publications, words of caution, which exalt the rigor of disinterested research, are undermined in the same articles that proclaim this discovery to be equal to that of penicillin. The temptation to make references to the fountain of youth and age-old price of immortality are almost as seductive as a dip and a gargle in the fountain itself. This frames the research in a discourse that is ripe for exploitation. In fact, it is inevitable.
It is impossible not to imagine a dystopia where this hitherto strange and invaluable substance is a traded commodity for the cognitive cosmetics industry. Where leukemia charities compete directly with the likes of l’Oreal for the attention and affections of donors. Where blood can be changed as easily as the oil in a second-hand car. Where your employer can expect you to maintain your mind with an annual top up, before you retire at the ripe age of 90.
It’s rare for the fast-paced world of consumerism to wait on a small detail like scientific conclusion before jumping to launch a new product — let alone stocking or consuming it — so why should anything else be expected this time around? No matter how much longer it takes for this research to be conclusive, it is sure to be on the market as soon as it is legally viable.
After all, narcissism is impatient and hysterical in the face of media-mongering.