Scientists from the United States have discovered that umbilical cord blood may be used to keep ageing brains healthy. They have demonstrated that a protein in umbilical cord blood helps elderly mice learn new things, improves their memory and adapt to new environments. The researchers say that further testing is required to determine if the same results occur in humans.
The mice were injected with a protein called TIMP2, which is found within umbilical cord blood. They were interested in determining what affect it might have on the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memories and spatial navigation.
Previous research had already found that TIMP2 plays an important role in the development of the hippocampus. The researchers wanted to find out if adding more TIMP2 improved the brain function of the rodents. Shortly after injection, they discovered that all of the rodents had increased activity in their hippocampus. The mice were able to learn new things faster, including how to escape from a maze.
Researchers suspect that the protein may be useful for slowing cognitive decline in the elderly. The research team was led by Dr Tony Wyss-Coray from Stanford University and the results of the study were published in the journal Nature.
Although scientists are excited about the results, they caution that more research is required to determine if humans can benefit from the protein. The researchers also noted that any treatment using TIMP2 may not be useful for neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Those conditions occur for reasons very different to general cognitive decline in the elderly.