A protein present in human umbilical cord plasma can revitalize the hippocampus and improve cognitive function in aged mice, reveals a Nature paper published online this week. The discovery could potentially aid the development of therapies to target degeneration in the ageing brain.
Tony Wyss-Coray and colleagues have previously shown that blood-borne factors in young mice can counteract age-related changes in older mice. Here, the authors demonstrate a similar effect for human cord plasma and identify a protein called tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 2 (TIMP2) that is responsible for the effect.
The protein, which occurs naturally during early development, appeared in the brain after injection into aged mice. Following treatment, aged mice improved in various tests of learning, memory and synaptic plasticity (the brain’s ability to change and adapt to new information). Together, the findings suggests that systemic factors present early in life could help to revitalize aged tissue, and that TIMP2 and/or the cells targeted by it could be useful targets for drug development.