Scientists have reversed memory and learning problems in aged mice with infusions of a protein found in human umbilical cord blood.
The striking results have raised hopes for a treatment that staves off mental decline in old age, but researchers stressed that more studies, including human trials, are needed before the therapy can be considered for clinical use.
Tests on frail rodents found that the protein therapy rejuvenated an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is crucial for memory formation, and one of the first and most important regions to deteriorate in old age.
Older mice that received the treatment reacted like younger animals in a series of behavioural tests, according to researchers at Stanford University in California. They escaped from a maze faster than before, had better memories, and started building nests again, a skill the animals tend to lose in old age.