In a seriously ‘mad science’ piece of research, the brains of old mice have been rejuvenated by injecting plasma from a human umbilical cord.

Researchers in the US are looking for therapies to slow the brain degeneration that happens with age.

Previous research has shown that the blood of young mice can counteract age-related changes in older mice.

Now, researchers at Stanford are investigating whether it holds true for humans, after having narrowed down the restorative effects to a specific protein found in the plasma which occurs during early human development.

When this protein was injected into the brains of older mice, it appeared to help in aspects of learning, memory and the ability to adapt to new information.

Following their injections, 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 suggest that systemic factors present early in life could help to revitalise aged tissue, and that the protein TIMP2 and/or the cells targeted by it could be useful targets for drug development.

The study is accessible here.