Blood from human umbilical cords just may be the key in fighting back aging. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that the protein located in the blood can actually boost learning and memory in older mice, opening the potential of new treatments for age-related mental declines, according to a report from Medical Xpress.

"Neuroscientists have ignored it and are still ignoring it, but to me it's remarkable that something in your blood can influence the way you think," senior author Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, explained. Wyss-Coray participated in a previous study that showed older mice displaying improved memory and learning after the infusion of younger mice's plasma.

This new study takes it a step further as it demonstrated how human plasma can positively affect an aging mouse's cognitive abilities. Both Wyss-Coray and lead author Joseph Castellano the findings highlight the potential of a similar effect on people.

The team compared blood plasma from three different sets of sources: young adults (19- to 24-year-olds), older adults (61- to 82-year-olds), and umbilical cords. Upon analysis, they noticed that age-associated changes in the number of proteins, which they suspect play a part in affecting the hippocampus. The hippocampus is important in remembering spatial information. It's also particularly vulnerable to normal aging with its deterioration known as an early manifestation of Alzheimer's disease.

Upon infusion of the human blood plasma, the mice reacted in different degrees depending on the source. When they receive the umbilical cord plasma every fourth day for two weeks, their hippocampal function improved tremendously. Meanwhile, the plasma from older adults caused no discernable effect, while the plasma from young adults had a moderate effect on the brain.

The researchers attempted to figure out what it was in plasma from human umbilical cords and young mice that was boosting the cognitive function of elderly mice, eventually focusing on the protein called tissue inhibitor of metalloproteases 2 (TIMP2).

"TIMP2's effects in the brain have been studied a little, but not much and not in aging," Castellano said. "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."

The study is published in Nature.