‘Rejuvenating’ protein doubted

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Science  22 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6237, pp. 849
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6237.849

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In the 1950s, researchers observed that when the circulation of a young mouse is connected to an old mouse, the elderly animal seems to be rejuvenated. Since 2005, a handful of labs have been hotly pursuing the molecules responsible, hoping to harness them to slow or reverse aging in people. One in particular stood out: a protein found in young blood known as GDF11. In several high-profile papers, two of them published last year in Science, a Harvard University team reported that GDF11 levels decline in older animals, and that replacing it rebuilds muscles, the brain, and the heart. But work described this week in Cell Metabolism by a Novartis team challenges GDF11's rejuvenating powers. Their paper casts doubt on the assays used in the earlier research and suggests that GDF11 actually inhibits muscle regeneration.