Injecting blood from younger people can help to ease the symptoms of elderly dementia patients, it has been found. Scientists at Stanford University in the US discovered that those who were given the transfusions were able to cope better with their daily lives.
The care staff looking after the 18 participants in the study said that there was a noticeable difference in being able to perform everyday tasks, such as making food or travelling. While their global condition and general mood were not changed, it did allow them to be more independent.
Talking about the unusual treatment, the team from Stanford described it as safe, well-tolerated and feasible”, making it an interesting development in the fight against dementia. They did not want to commit to ascertaining what the long-term implications could be, but agreed further exploration was needed.
In the study, 18 adults aged between 50 and 90 with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease were given four jabs once a week. Some of them received young fresh frozen plasma (yFFP), while the others were administered a placebo.
Professor Dr Sharon Sha, a neurologist at Stanford University, said: The efficacy of yFFP in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease could not be determined because of the small sample size, a change in the design of the study, and the short duration of treatment.
“Therefore, assessments of cognition, mood, functional ability, and default mode network changes were exploratory. Analyses of these measures did not find that infusions of yFFP altered mood, global cognition, or functional connectivity.
“However, improvements in functional abilities were reported by caregivers. These findings could be further explored with a larger study that is powered to determine clinical and statistical significance.”
After the randomised patients were given the yFFP or the saline, MRI scans were taken to monitor any changes in brain activity. One of the main things to come out of the study is that there were no significant side effects, paving the way for more research.
Injecting older people with the blood of younger generations is an anti-ageing concept that was first developed in the 19th century. These days it is referred to as parabiosis and have not entirely gone out of fashion.
A leading geneticist named Dame Linda Partridge has suggested that the technique could lead to humans living disease-free right up to their deaths. She believes that the likes of cancer, heart disease and dementia could all be banished from the body with yFFP injections.
Future studies that have already been planned to look at the effect of blood transfusions on dementia sufferers include one that will only use the part of blood plasma that contains growth factors. Another will take a larger sample of people and test a variety of dosages and the effects on Alzheimer’s.
This shows it’s an area that may have potential and one that researchers looking for illusive dementia treatments are keen to explore. With the number of people expected to be living with dementia in the UK alone expected to rise to two million by 2051, it’s an important condition to tackle.