A protein in umbilical cord blood appears to improve mental ability
A protein found in human umbilical cord blood can make old mice smarter, a finding that may lead to new therapies for aging-related declines in mental ability, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature. The study is carried out by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine, V.A. Palo Alto Healthcare System, and AfaSci Research Laboratories.
In 2014, the same lab found that blood from young mice improves learning and memory of old mice, while old blood makes young brains act older. Old mice receiving plasma from young adult mice tended to do better in the learning and memory tests. Furthermore, a series of physiological and biochemical signs of rejuvenation were observed in the hippocampus of their brains.
The hippocampus is a brain structure located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain. This structure is associated primarily with memory and spatial navigation. For unknown reasons, the hippocampus is very vulnerable to normal aging. As we get old, we may experience memory problems, which is largely due to declined hippocampus function.
The new study aimed to determine whether young human plasma also has cognition-promoting ability. The researchers treated aged mice with human umbilical cord plasma, and measured the animals' hippocampal function using the Barnes maze and other tests. Results showed that treatment with human umbilical cord plasma revitalized the hippocampus and improves cognitive function in aged mice. By contrast, plasma from older people did not have such effects.
By comparing blood plasma from young people, old people and umbilical cords, the researchers identified age-associated changes in many proteins. One protein, called Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 2 (TIMP2), significantly elevated synaptic plasticity and hippocampal-dependent cognition in old mice. Further experiments confirmed that TIMP2 was required for the cognitive benefits induced by cord plasma.
In summary, the study demonstrates that TIMP2 in human umbilical cord blood improves brain function in old mice. The finding could aid in developing treatments for age-associated declines in mental ability. Dr Joe Castellano, first author of the study, noted that "TIMP2 protein might have some translational promise, some therapeutic promise, in humans."
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