“Groundbreaking” Study Finds Memory Loss Reversed In Mice Using Brain Liquid From Younger Peers
“Groundbreaking” new treatment done in mice has found that their memory loss has been reversed by injecting them with a brain liquid from younger peers.
The substance is called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and it can wash in and out of grey and white matter in waves, which helps it clear out waste. It also covers the tissue with proteins, or growth factors, that are key players for normal development.
The amounts of CSF get less as people age, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative neurological conditions. Scientists also say that this new therapy opens up new paths for new treatments, as well as helping slow cognitive decline.
During the testing, scientists used a tiny tube and pump and took CSF from young adult mice and infused in into the brains of 18-month old animals over seven days, which was equivalent to around 60 in human years. The scans showed that it boosted the production of myelin, which is the fatty sheath that protects the neurons from damage.
After the procedure, the researchers found that the older mice got better at a ‘fear-conditioning task.’ They remembered that a tone and flashing light meant that they were about to get a small electric shock.
Providing New Hope
Corresponding author Professor Tony Wyss-Coray from Stanford University in California said, “Brain aging underlies dementia and neurodegenerative diseases, imposing an immense societal burden. Memory improvements that are seen in old mice receiving CSF from younger animals may be attributed to growth factors that are shown to restore neural cell function.”
He added, “The findings demonstrate the potential rejuvenating properties of young CSF for the aging brain.”
Through a computer tool called RNA sequencing, it showed how the therapy altered gene expression in the hippocampus, which is what controls memory. It also stimulated cells in the central nervous system called oligodendrocytes. These make myelin, which ensure strong signals between neurons.
The study, which is found in the journal Nature, ‘found genes that are typically expressed in oligodendrocytes were highly up-regulated in old mice treated with CSF from young mice.’ It identified a gene named Fgf17 as being key, in particular, while activity decreased in aged mice. Meanwhile, boosting it achieved the same benefits as young CSF, which offers the hope of developing a drug that targets it.
Professor Wyss-Coray said, “As the brain ages, cognitive decline increases along with the risk of dementia and neurodegenerative disease. An understanding of how systemic factors affect the brain throughout life has shed light on potential treatments to slow brain aging.”
He added, “The CSF is part of the immediate environment of the brain, providing brain cells with nutrients, signaling molecules and growth factors.”
Notably, age-related cognitive decline affects up to a quarter of people above their 60s. Those that keep a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise protect themselves again it, yet there are no pharmacological treatments.
Their Groundbreaking Treatment
Professor Wyss-Coray also shared, “The study findings show that the rejuvenating power of young CSF and identify Fgf17 as a vital target to restore oligodendrocyte function in the aging brain.”
He added, “Combined, our results suggest that targeting hippocampal myelination through factors present in young CSF might be a therapeutic strategy to prevent or rescue cognitive decline associated with ageing and neurodegenerative diseases.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Miriam Zawadzki and Professor Maria Lehtinen of Boston’s Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts – both who were not involved in the study – have described this new research as “groundbreaking.”
They also said, “Not only does the study imply FGF17 has potential as a therapeutic target, but it also suggests routes of drug administration that allow therapeutics to directly access the CSF could be beneficial in treating dementia. Any such treatments will be hugely helpful in supporting our aging population.”