Researchers from the School of Medicine have found that the blood of young mice may have a restorative effect on the mental capabilities of older mice, a discovery that could open up new therapeutic approaches to treating human afflictions like Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers examined the performance of older mice that had received infusions of plasma from young mice against a control group on standard laboratory tests of spatial memory. While previous experiments had established a positive relationship between the transfusions and general nerve cell growth in older mice, the researchers’ more recent study identified a demonstrable improvement in various behavioral measures as well.
“It was as if these old brains were recharged by young blood,” said study senior author Tony Wyss-Coray.
The team paid particular attention to the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is critical to both humans and mice in terms of recalling and recognizing spatial patterns, which typically erodes in function with age. The hippocampi of old mice that had received transfusions produced more substances linked to learning, demonstrating an enhanced ability to strengthen connections between nerve cells.
Following the study’s findings, the researchers plan to further investigate precisely which factor or factors within the plasma influence brain function in older mice, and to assess whether a similar method might prove effective in humans.