UCSF: Saul Villeda Delivers 2023 Byers Award Lecture on Reversing Aging’s Effects on the Brain
So, working with mice, Villeda and his colleagues explored how the makeup of an animal’s blood affects its cognition and changes as the animal ages. “What we found is that old blood is pretty bad,” he said. “There are pro-aging factors that come up as you get older, and they are 100% driving aging mechanisms within your brain.”
That got the team wondering if the opposite also was true. As Villeda put it, “Is it just that old blood is communicating aging, or is it possible that young blood can actually communicate youth and rejuvenation?” It was a crazy idea, he admitted. But preliminary evidence suggested it was also a promising one, and it became the launch pad for Villeda’s research program at UCSF.
Villeda has since built a robust body of research revealing blood-borne molecules and interactions that impact brain function – and that might one day be tapped for anti-aging therapies. In his talk, he highlighted one such molecule: an enzyme called GPLD1.
GPLD1 seems to confer the benefits of exercise on the aging brain. When a mouse or human exercises, Villeda’s lab found, its liver churns out more of this enzyme than when it’s sedentary. Let loose in the blood, the enzymes act like tiny scissors; they snip specific protein tags on cells throughout the body, thereby triggering important signaling cascades.
Watch the full lecture here (the actual presentation starts around minute 5:20):