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There are many mentions in historical texts of what might sound like insane behavior – drinking blood. You may think that stuff like this only happens in Bram Stoker’s famous novel about Count Dracula who had to drink blood to stay alive. And strong. While Stoker’s novel is the most famous, mentions of such behavior appear in the literature of various countries mixing myth with fact.

A few scientists dared to wonder if there might be more to these legends than myth. Paul Bert, a controversial Frenchman, was the first to demonstrate that the circulatory systems of two different animals could be linked together surgically. This guaranteed the exchange of blood from one animal to the other. A way of transferring blood without the need for vampiric behaviour. Many researchers followed suit and developed numerous experimental protocols. One of these was to join the circulatory systems of two mice: one old and the other young. To their surprise the researchers noted a great leap in the ability of the old animals to repair and replace their aging tissues. The effect was strong enough that even broken bones would heal and heal fast. The muscular system, something that deteriorates with age along with the bones, got revitalized. Injured muscles, like the injured bones, healed faster too.

Other scientists joined the fray and replicated the difficult experiments. The finding was real and not just a onetime fluke. In fact young blood was then shown to be good not just for the body but also the brain. Old mice infused with young blood learned better and remembered better on standard tests designed to test cognitive function in animals. These experiments, while extremely controversial, have now been replicated so many times that the results are no longer in doubt. The fact that young blood could rejuvenate old brains suggests that there are physical ways to arrest the decline of brain function in animals. In fact, the reverse is also important to notice. Old blood affects the brains of young mice negatively.

So the question is – what exactly in young blood is leading to the rejuvenation? And is there something particularly harmful in old blood?

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