Could umbilical cord blood be the key to eternal youth? Groundbreaking study claims the thing midwives normally trash is actually age-defying treasure.
A new study from Stanford University School of Medicine has found that a protein found in
umbilical cord blood can reverse the effects of age-associated mental declines
The blood from human umbilical cords may be the key ingredient for a 'fountain of youth' drug, a new study suggests.
Researchers say a protein found in cord blood can reverse the effects of age-associated mental declines.
The protein affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain that converts experiences into long-term memories and is essential for helping you remember information.
If so, this would add to the growing number of benefits that have been discovered using cord blood.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California, have identified a protein called tissue inhibitor of metalloproteases 2, or TIMP2, which is very common in human cord blood.
As we age, it becomes decreasingly present in our blood.
The researchers believe the protein could lead to new treatments for age-associated declines in mental ability.
Dr Tony Wyss-Coray, a professor of neurology and neurological sciences, published his findings online in the journal Nature today.
Previously Dr Wyss-Coray's lab had found that that direct injection of the plasma from young mice gave health benefits to old mice - allowing them to perform better on tests of memory and learning.
The researchers believe the protein affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain that, in both mice and humans, is critical for converting experiences into long-term memories.
In particular, the hippocampus is essential for helping you remember information, such as where you left your keys and what you ate for breakfast.
For largely unknown reasons, the hippocampus is especially vulnerable to normal aging, according to Dr Wyss-Coray.
He said: 'With advancing age, the hippocampus degenerates, loses nerve cells and shrinks'.
In the experiment, mice who were immune deficient - they did not have an allergic reaction to human blood plasma - were injected with cord blood, blood from young people, and blood from the elderly.
When the older mice received human umbilical-cord blood plasma every fourth day for two weeks, many measures of hippocampal function improved notably.
Plasma from older people, on the other hand, didn't help at all, while young-adult plasma induced an intermediate effect.
The researchers said older mice's performance in mazes and other tests was 'stellar' compared to mice who were injected with a placebo – saline solution.
The researchers believe the key ingredient is a protein, TIMP2. Injecting TIMP2 by itself into elderly mice largely duplicated the beneficial effects of umbilical-cord plasma.
Co-author Dr Joseph Castellano said: 'TIMP2's effects in the brain have been studied a little, but not much and not in aging.
'In our study, it mimicked the memory and learning effects we were getting with cord plasma. And it appeared to do that by improving hippocampal function.'
Umbilical cord blood has been found to have several benefits.
Hematopoietic stem cells, found in abundance in cord blood similarly to bone marrow, were shown to rebuild and replenish the body's blood and immune systems.
This ability has lead to their use in treating more than 80 life-threatening diseases - including a wide range of cancers, genetic diseases, and disorders - with the first cord blood transplant taking place in 1988.
And unlike bone marrow, cord blood can be collected in advance and stored for decades in liquid nitrogen.