Hearts in ageing mice treated with protein showed a reduction in thickness and size, a recent US study showed.
Heart disease affects millions of people each year
The study, led by two Harvard professors Amy Wagers and Richard Lee, found that the protein could prove to be the first effective treatment for an age-related disease called diastolic heart failure.
Diastolic heart failure involves the thickening of the heart muscle and is most common in the elderly. The disease is thought to affect hundreds of thousands of people in the UK.
The protein, known as growth differentiation factor 11, was shown to reduce the size and thickness of hearts in mice. This could be used to help humans suffering from the same condition, although any human trials would take place between four or five years.
Lee, a practising cardiologist, said: “The most common form of heart failure is actually a form that's not caused by heart attacks but is very much related to the heart aging.”
Whilst the findings focus specifically on the heart, the research could affect the understanding of aging as a whole.
Previous studies by Wagers in Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology found that blood of younger mice rejuvenates tissue, especially in the spinal cord and muscle.
“One of the interests of my laboratory is in understanding why this happens and whether it is an inevitable consequence of aging, or if it might be reversible," Wagers said.
The new research has been labelled by the sensationalist media as a ‘vampire treatment’ referring to the process of younger blood stunting the effects of ageing.
Diastolic heart failure is a chronic disease and your insurer will pay for any treatment to stabilise the condition. For more information about chronic disease and health insurance read our guide here.
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