Pre-clinical trials by researchers at the University of Queensland have found that injection of a specific blood factor can replicate the benefits of exercise in the brain.
Dr. Odette Leiter and Dr. Tara Walker, from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute, led a team that discovered platelets, tiny blood cells important for blood clotting, secrete a protein that is aged similarly to physical exercise Regenerates neurons in mice.
Dr. Leiter said, “We know that exercise increases the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain important for learning and memory, but the mechanism is not clear.”
“Our previous research showed that platelets are involved, but this study shows that platelets are actually required for this effect in aged mice.”
The researchers focused on exerkins, biological compounds released into the bloodstream during exercise that are believed to stimulate an exercise-induced response in the brain.
“We found that exerkin CXCL4/platelet factor 4 or PF4, which is released from platelets after exercise, when injected into aged mice led to regenerative and cognitive improvements,” Dr Leiter said.
Dr. Walker said the findings have important implications for the development of drug interventions.
“Exercise is not possible for many people with health problems, mobility problems or older age, so pharmacological interventions are an important area of research,” he added.
“We can now target platelets to promote neurogenesis, enhance cognition, and counteract age-related cognitive decline.”
The researchers said the next step before moving on to human trials is to test the response in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s important to note that this is not a substitute for exercise,” Dr. Walker said.
“But it could help improve cognition in the very elderly or someone who has suffered a brain injury or stroke.”
The study has been published nature communication,