Plasma exchange, also known as plasmapheresis, is a way to “clean” your blood. New research in mice shows that it can reverse signs of aging and rejuvenates muscle, brain, and liver tissue. But can it treat age-related diseases and improve how we age in humans?
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Plasma Exchange – a New Solution for Anti-Aging?
What Is Plasma Exchange?
Plasmapheresis, also known as therapeutic plasma exchange, is the process of removing and replacing the patient’s blood plasma. It has been used in treating various autoimmune diseases in which the human body recognizes a certain part of itself as foreign and creates antibodies.
Therapeutic plasma exchange aims to remove disease-causing agents such as the antibodies which damage the body.
This therapy process includes gradually extracting a small amount of the person’s blood through a central line catheter or a needle. Then that portion of the blood is circulated through a machine to make into a plasma substitute, which is added to the patient’s blood cells (platelets, white cells, and red cells) and then returned intravenously. The extracted plasma is discarded.
A single typical procedure separates about 70% of the disease-causing antibodies (proteins) in the plasma.
Research and Results
In 2005 researchers at the University of California Berkeley made an astounding discovery while creating conjoined twins from a couple of young and old mice that share organs and blood. They found that the young mouse helped the old mouse to rejuvenate its tissues and reverse the sign of aging.
These discoveries have inspired countless studies about whether young blood contains molecules or special proteins that could potentially act as the “elixir of youth” for both mice and humans.
However, from conducting additional research, scientists have found even more intriguing results. The same effects of age-reversing can be achieved even without the need for young blood.
According to the study, the team of researchers observed that replacing half the blood plasma of the old mice with a combination of albumin and saline – where albumin replaces the protein missing when the initial blood plasma was extracted – had the same or greater rejuvenation effect on the brain, liver, and muscles than pairing with young mice or young blood exchanges.
On the contrary, there are no detrimental effects when the same procedure is conducted on young mice.
How Plasma Exchange Can Help with the Aging Process
In the early 2000s, researchers and scientists suspected that even when we age, our body’s ability to regenerate damaged tissues remains in the form of stem cells. However, those cells get turned off due to the changes in our biochemistry during the aging process.
After their study in 2005, several researchers came up with the theory that unique proteins in young blood may be the secret to activating the body’s latent regeneration capability.
However, in the initial report and a more recent review, when blood was shared between young and old animals without physically joining them, young animals exhibited aging symptoms.
These findings revealed that new blood circulating through young veins could not compete with old blood. As a result, they realize that instead of inserting proteins from young blood that might be harmful to the patient, the dilution of age-high proteins could be medicinal while at the same time encouraging the increase of young proteins by eliminating factors that could inhibit them.
It is found that the plasma procedure serves almost like a molecular reset button, which lowers a variety of pro-inflammatory proteins that rise with age, thus allowing more beneficial proteins, such as those that facilitate vascularization, to rebound in large numbers.
Diseases That Can Be Treated with Therapeutic Plasma Exchange
- Transplant rejection of organs (heart, kidney, etc.)
- Cryoglobulinemia (a form of vasculitis – inflammation of the blood vessels)
- Myasthenia gravis (a long-term neuromuscular disease)
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves)
- Multiple sclerosis (a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system)
- Other rare diseases
Another Way to Prevent Aging Effects
Aside from plasma exchange, other factors affect the aging process, such as telomeres. They are the proteins protecting the end of DNA strands from fraying and shortening.
The memories are shortened over time because the aging cells are unable to replicate correctly. As a result, the cells lose their ability to function properly, therefore, accelerate the aging process. Fortunately, you can easily prevent this from happening by leading a healthy lifestyle and having a balanced diet.
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