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How Blood Changes as We Age

Our blood cells age just like the other parts of our bodies do. It is thought that the aging of our blood is the result of declines in the function of mechanisms necessary to make the proteins that are the building blocks for blood products (e.g., plasma, platelets, proteins). In a recent study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers analyzed the levels of approximately 3,000 proteins in the plasma from 4,263 people ages 18-95. They found that the levels of nearly half of them varied significantly with age and identified a group of 373 proteins that could be used to very accurately predict the donor’s age. Interestingly, their analysis found that in the cases where their predictions of chronological age were substantially lower than the person’s age, they corresponded to people who turned out to be remarkably healthy. So there seems to be a clear correlation between blood age and longevity. 

Another very interesting finding from this study is that of the proteins that were observed to change levels with age, nearly two-thirds of them were significantly more predictive for one sex than for the other. This adds further evidence to the thesis that women and men age in different ways.

There are a number of companies that are pursuing the study of blood proteins to target specific processes of aging. Here are two that we found particularly interesting:

  • Alkahest is a biopharmaceutical company Targeting specific chronokines (the proteins that increase or decrease with age) to develop therapeutic drugs that can modulate age-related disease mechanisms with precision. In particular, they are focused on neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases and have a number of compounds advancing in Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials.
  • Elevian is another biopharmaceutical company that began researching the blood plasma protein, GDF11, which had previously been shown to reverse aging in old mice. As of now, it appears Elevian is singularly focused on replicating and producing GDF11 as a possible modality to reverse age-related cardiac hypertrophy, accelerate skeletal muscle repair, improve brain function and cerebral blood flow, and improve metabolism. They have four research tracks advancing in pre-clinical trials.

Go deeper: While therapeutic drugs to reverse the effects of aging blood are a few years away, it is very exciting to see how quickly the scientific understanding of the causes of aging is advancing, and how that is inspiring the launch of pioneering companies that will make lifespan extension an imminent reality. 

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