Scientists identify blood factor that can rejuvenate aging brain

Scientists have identified three influences that enhance cognition as we age: “young blood,” the longevity hormone klotho, and exercise. But in an a remarkable piece of new research, they’ve discovered that a single blood factor, called platelet factor 4 (PF4), is common to all three mechanisms.

As reported here, “In a remarkable convergence, scientists have discovered that the same blood factor is responsible for the cognitive enhancement that results from young blood transfusion, the longevity hormone klotho, and exercise.

“In a trio of papers appearing in NatureNature Aging, and Nature Communications on August 16, 2023, two (University of California at San Francisco) teams and a team from the University of Queensland (Australia), identify platelet factor 4 (PF4) as a common messenger of each of these interventions.”

The research was reported in a trio of papers appearing in NatureNature Aging, and Nature Communications on August 16, 2023.

Platelets are a type of blood cell that alerts the immune system to wounds and helps form clots. Now it turns out that PF4 is also a cognitive enhancer. “Under its influence,” the article reports, “old mice recover the sharpness of middle age and young mice get smarter.”

The article quotes Saul Villeda, Ph.D., associate director of the UCSF Bakar Aging Research Institute and senior author of the Nature paper: “Young blood, klotho, and exercise can somehow tell your brain, ‘Hey, improve your function.’ With PF4, we’re starting to understand the vocabulary behind this rejuvenation.”

Dena Dubal, MD, Ph.D., a UCSF professor who co-led the study on klotho, added, “When we realized we had independently and serendipitously found the same thing, our jaws dropped. The fact that three separate interventions converged on platelet factors truly highlights the validity and reproducibility of this biology. The time has come to pursue platelet factors in brain health and cognitive enhancement.”

Said Villeda, “PF4 actually causes the immune system to look younger, it’s decreasing all of these active pro-aging immune factors, leading to a brain with less inflammation, more plasticity and eventually more cognition. We’re taking 22-month-old mice, equivalent to a human in their 70s, and PF4 is bringing them back to function close to their late 30s, early 40s.”

Read the full article to see much more detail on the three individual studies. There’s no doubt we can expect much more exciting news on this front, as the research findings are translated into actionable therapies for humans.

(Photo credit: Peddolanka Ramesh Babu at iStock by Getty)

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