Bioethics Blogs

Creative Minds: A New Chemistry for Aging Research?

Tony Wyss-Coray / Credit: Stanford School of Medicine

Basic scientists have long studied aging by looking inside of cells. While this research has produced many important leads, they are now starting to look outside the cell for the wealth of biochemical clues contained in the bloodstream.

To introduce you to this exciting frontier in aging research, this blog highlighted a while back the work of Tony Wyss-Coray at Stanford School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA. He and a colleague had just received a 2013 NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award to explore the effects of exercise on the brains of mice. Their work, in fact, produced one of Science Magazine’s Breakthrough Discoveries of 2014. Their team showed that by fusing the circulatory systems of old and young mice to create a shared blood supply, the young blood triggered new muscle and neural connections in the older mice, while also improving their memories.

As fascinating as this theoretical Fountain of Youth was, Wyss-Coray recognized a critical limitation. He had no way of knowing how factors secreted by the young mouse could actually cross the blood-brain barrier and rejuvenate neurons. To solve this unknown, Wyss-Coray recently received a 2015 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award to build a potentially game-changing tool to track the aging process in mice.

Wyss-Coray and team will develop a way to get cells to place distinctive tags on the roughly 4,000 proteins that mouse and human cells routinely secrete into the bloodstream to communicate, called the “communicome” (every large collection of biological molecules seems to be called an “ome” these days!).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.