What is weirder than transferring blood plasma from a young mouse into an older mouse? How about injecting blood plasma from a young human into an older mouse? Since 2014, this is precisely what a neurologist and his biotechnology company has been up to in the name of improving memory, cognition and physical abilities. These studies of Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD have laid the groundwork for the research of Sharon Sha, M.D.. Let’s take a step back and explore the subject of blood plasma a little further.
What Is Blood Plasma?
After you remove the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components from blood, all that remains is a clear, straw-colored liquid. This is blood plasma. It comprises about 55 percent of human blood and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins.
Why Is Blood Plasma Important?
Water is 90% of blood plasma. That is what enables blood to carry all those vital substances throughout the human body. Blood plasma clots blood, fights diseases and serves other critical functions. Plasma that is collected from healthy, voluntary donors is called source plasma. It is then broken down into its various components and used for both clinical and analytical purposes.
Can Blood Plasma Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?
Last year, Sha announced at the Clinical Trial on Alzheimer’s Disease conference that her team had successfully administered young plasma to people with the disease, which severely impairs memory, thinking, and behavior in people. Subjects showed small but significant improvements in their ability to perform tasks such as prepare meals and take medications. It is not a cure but it is an exciting step. Here is what Sha and her team did:
The PLasma for Alzheimer Symptom Amelioration (PLASMA) Study involved two bags of frozen plasma and 18 participants, divided into two groups. The first received four weekly infusions of either plasma from donors between the ages of 18 and 30, or a placebo saline solution. After a six-week period during which no one received any infusions, the group receiving the plasma and the placebo group switched. All participants filled out a questionnaire regarding their mood, cognition, and functional ability but none knew which infusion they received at which time.
The second group experienced the same, with the addition of young-donor infusions, which they knew they were getting. They also filled out the questionnaires.
Sadly, there is still no cure for this devastating disease currently affecting over 5 million Americans. However, we are fans of hope around here and Sha’s work has promising implications and raises interesting questions. What is in young plasma? Can treatments be developed from synthesizing plasma or pulling it from animal sources? Some with a more entrepreneurial spirit have already begun peddling eternal youth elixirs but we stand with Sharon Sha and her team in their search for a cure.