Can Protein In Human Umbilical Cord Blood Improve Memory In Aging Mice?

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The aging process slows down brain functions just as it impacts other bodily activities, if not more. As the years pass, humans start to lose their ability to form and maintain memories. According to scientists, it appears the same is true for older mice.

However, a new research — conducted by injecting certain plasma found abundantly in human umbilical cords into white mice — may have yielded crucial results about ways to recover memory prowess, which is lost with age.

How Was The Study Conducted?

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine conducted the study. For the purpose of the study, scientists injected an infusion of human plasma cells from the umbilical cord into white mice. These mice were aged equivalent to 70 human years.

Researchers selected only subjects with a weak immunity as otherwise, the introduction of foreign plasma cells into the mice’s body would have triggered an immune response and made the tests difficult.

The mice were also put through memory and cognitive tasks, like finding their way through a maze, both before and after the plasma cells were administered.

Can Protein In Human Umbilical Cord Blood Enhance Learning And Memory?

Researchers noticed that after the injections of the infused plasma were administered to the aged mice, the brain’s hippocampus region — which is pivotal to memory — in the creatures’ brains showed an overall improved memory and cognitive functioning.

Researchers were also able to pinpoint the exact protein responsible for the increased activity, namely tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 2 or TIMP2.

Following the TIMP2 administration, scientists discovered that the mice’s performance in memory tasks was enhanced vis-à-vis their performance in the same tasks prior to getting the tissue inhibitor.

Moreover, the mice which received the plasma from the blood of some humans with a median age of 22 exhibited some improvements. By comparison, the mice that got the plasma infusion from “elderly” or human adults with a median age of 66 showed no change in cognitive behavior.

This indicates that blood from the younger population may be more effective in repairing memory. The lower the age at which the plasma is collected, the higher are its benefits.

“There seems to be something in young human blood that is not in old human blood that can reactivate and rejuvenate these old brains and make mice smarter again,” said Tony Wyss-Coray, the lead researcher of the study.

The TIMP2 protein was seen to elevate the exact memory and brain functions, which are affected during the onset of Alzheimer’s. This is a positive sign that the protein may in future present an effective treatment for the mental disorder.

However, scientists warn that success in studies done with lab animals do not usually translate to the same in human testing. Although, TIMP2 is a product derived from human blood, researchers are still unsure about how and when it is produced.

Even if the protein functions similarly in aged people, it would take years for it to reach the human trial phase and even longer to be adapted as a form of treatment.

The results of the study have been published in the journal Nature.

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