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Apr 21, 2017 01:31 PM EDT

Stanford Study Shows Umbilical Cord Blood Rejuvenates Old Mouse Brains [Video]

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Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have found that plasma from human umbilical cords can revive the brains of old mice. It occurs in a specific area of the brain named the hippocampus, which plays a significant role in learning and memory functions.

Blood from the cord have been known to be donated to blood banks, which freezes the stem cells inside. This is used to treat people with various cancers and genetic disorders.

Stanford neuroscientist Tony Wyss-Coray said that using actual plasma is not practical as treatment since it is difficult to collect. It is expected, though, that the identification of beneficial molecules in the fluid can help develop treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer's.

The Atlantic reported that the team has identified a protein called TIMP2 abundant in young blood that, when injected, can revitalize aging organs even the brain. This type of protein decline as humans age.

There are speculations that this approach could enhance the function of other brain areas that become vulnerable in old age. This includes the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for planning, decision-making and other complex cognitive skills.

University of Minnesota bioethicist Leigh Turner cautioned that scientists should be careful with this breakthrough since it may come with the assumption that the same outcomes will be witnessed in human diseases. Wyss-Coray added that it is important to know if plasma is beneficial in any form in humans and whether TIMP2 can be produced synthetically to mimic its beneficial effects.

According to Science Magazine, the Stanford scientists gave human cord blood plasma to mice in varying ages. The subjects had defective immune systems so they did not reject the foreign human tissue.

Human cord plasma was injected every 4 days for 2 weeks into the circulation activated neurons in old mice's hippocampi. They found that, after the injections, the aging animals were able to navigate a maze more swiftly. They also had better performance on other tests of learning and memory.

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