There may be science behind the fairytales of vampires feeding on the life blood of young maidens.
Blood plasma taken from young people and given to those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease appears to help ward off its symptoms.
It has long been hoped that giving the blood of the young to the old could help to reverse the signs of ageing.
There may be science behind the fairytales of vampires feeding on the life blood of young maidens
A study has now found so-called ‘vampire transfusions’ may help people with dementia regain the capacity to perform basic daily tasks, such as making their own meals, paying bills and remembering to take their medications.
This is what happened, according to researchers at Stanford University when they gave 18 people with Alzheimer’s disease the blood plasma of 18 to 30-year-olds.
Although this was an early-stage trial, set up only to determine if such transfusions were safe, the authors were surprised by the results.
The study’s principal investigator, Dr Sharon Sha, said: ‘Our enthusiasm concerning these findings needs to be tempered by the fact that this was a small trial. But these results certainly warrant further study.’
The breakthrough follows a Stanford study in 2014 which found the blood of young mice rejuvenated the brain tissue of old mice and made them better able to learn.
At the time, the researchers said young blood may contain ingredients, as yet unknown, which are able to ‘recharge’ the brain.
The new findings were presented at the 10th annual Clinical Trial on Alzheimer’s Disease conference in Boston.
At first, nine people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were given four weekly infusions taken from the 18 to 30-year-olds of their blood plasma – the liquid, cell-free part of blood – or a saline solution instead.
Then the regimen was reversed so they got the opposite type of infusion.
In a second trial, all nine people knowingly received the blood plasma.
Blood plasma taken from young people and given to those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease appears to help ward off its symptoms, a study by scientists at Stanford University (pictured) found
After receiving the young blood plasma, the people with Alzheimer’s showed no change in their mood or performance in memory tests, such as memorising lists or remembering recent events.
But their carers did report significant improvements on basic everyday tasks like cooking dinner.
Dr Sha, co-leader of the Stanford Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre said further studies are needed to see if the young blood really works in tackling dementia symptoms.
The only side effect, in one participant was excessive itching, with another suffering a stroke which was not judged to be related to the blood transfusions.
The authors were concerned carers might have been too optimistic about the Alzheimer’s patients improvements following the ‘vampire’ therapy.
However the first group of people in the study, whose carers did not know if they were getting blood or a saline solution, were reported to show the biggest improvements.
The trials were sponsored by biotechnology company Alkahest, founded by Stanford professor of neurology Dr Tony Wyss-Coray.
He said: ‘I’m excited to see that giving repeated infusions of plasma to elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease is safe and that we can move forward to larger studies.
‘But I’m also realistic enough to know that it is very easy to cure diseases in small animals and a million times more difficult in humans.’
Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘Blood-plasma infusions have been in widespread use for medical purposes for a number of years, so while it is not surprising that they were found to be safe in this research, it is good news that this interesting approach can now be investigated in larger trials.
She added: ‘While the researchers point to potential signs of improvements, we need to see much larger studies before we can tell if this interesting approach could help improve the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s disease.’