A protein found in the plasma of human umbilical cord blood perked up the memories of elderly mice, researchers reported Wednesday in Nature.
Researchers at Stanford had first noted that injecting middle-aged mice with plasma from human cord blood could boost activity in their hippocampi, an area of the brain critical for creating and banking memories.
The mice also got better at memory tests.
After some analysis, the researchers focused in on one plasma protein called TIMP2. With injections of just that protein, the senior rodents again improved on memory and learning tests (though not quite to the extent that mice given whole plasma did).
Still, they became faster at navigating a maze and restored nesting skills they lost with age, and they could better remember a chamber where their feet get zapped with a slight electrical shock.
TIMP2 is an intriguing find in the pursuit of anti-aging therapies; TIMP2 levels in the blood of mice and men start high in life but then wane in later years.
And the researcher found that blocking TIMP2 in young mice seemed to prematurely age their memories.
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