Blood Protein Causes Forgetfulness In Mice

Stanford University’s School of Medicine published details of a very interesting study: they hooked up two mice together, one old and one young, via their circulatory systems to see what would happen to their brains. Specifically, they were looking at one of the few areas where the adult brain can still make new neurons: a part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus, which probably helps us make new memories. The result was that when the young and old blood was mixed together, the old mouse started making a lot more neurons in the dentate gyrus (i.e., more and better memories) and the young mouse started making less.

The scientists being scientists weren’t satisfied just yet, so they tried figuring out what specifically in the blood caused the brain in the young mouse to act old and vice-versa. First, they figured out that there was no cell transfer between the mice (by making one of the mice glow green), which meant that the substance was in plasma. After looking at 66 different proteins, they found six that had higher levels in mice with old blood — whether they were plain old mice, or young mice with old blood. The one that was most significant is called eotaxin (aka CCL11), and another one is MCP-1 (aka CCL2).

Just to make sure, they injected young mice with eotaxin and they started acting old and forgetting stuff just like expected. So it looks like as the mice get older, they get increased levels of some proteins in blood that causes their brain to not work too good no more. The scientists are of course now trying to see if this has anything to do with people, and specifically with Alzheimer’s, but generally they’re just going to keep trying to find the Fountain of Youth.

Juan Ponce de León


Previously, we’ve seen that walking 3x a week improved memory in the elderly and increased brain mass in the hippocampus. The study’s abstract mentions this fact as well, so it’s interesting to wonder if maybe exercise keeps the memory-killing proteins at younger levels.

From Stanford University, via Nature, Popular Science and Neatorama

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