Resume: Supplementing a diet with Ascidiacea, or sea squirts, reversed some of the major signs of aging in mouse models.
Source: Xi’an jiaotong-Liverpool University
If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and seen gray hair and wrinkles or forgotten the name of a close friend, you’d be forgiven for wanting a pill that can slow or even reverse the effects of aging.
A new study suggests this may not be fantasy. Researchers from Xi’an Jiaotong University-Liverpool, Stanford University, Shanghai Jiao tong University, and the Chinese University Academy of Sciences reported that supplementing a diet with the marine organisms Ascidiacea, also known as sea squirts, reverses some of the main signs. of aging in an animal model.
Sea squirts can be eaten raw and are found in Korean dishes (where they are known as meonggeor 멍게) and Japan (pit, or ホヤ). These marine organisms contain substances called plasmalogens, which are vital to our body’s processes.
Plasmalogens are found throughout our bodies naturally, particularly in the heart, brain, and immune cells, but as we age, the amount in our bodies decreases. This loss is also characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
To investigate whether increasing plasmalogen levels can stave off the effects of aging, researchers studied the effects of adding plasmalogens to the diet of elderly mice.
They found that the supplements had profound effects on the learning abilities and physical symptoms of these mice.
Professor Lei Fu, the corresponding author of the study, says: “Our research suggests that plasmalogens can not only stop cognitive decline, but also reverse cognitive deficits in the aging brain. In addition, aged mice fed plasmalogens develop new black hair that is thicker and shinier than aged mice that did not receive the supplement.”
This study is the first to show, in detail, how plasmalogens affect the aging brain.
making new connections
The effects of plasmalogen supplementation on learning and memory were tested by training mice to use a Morris water maze, a pool of water containing a platform that serves as a resting area. Mice generally don’t like to swim, so for five days of training they remember where the platform is and swim directly to it as soon as they’re in the pool. However, older mice take longer to find the platform after the same amount of training.
Surprisingly, when fed plasmalogens, the old mice behave more like young mice, finding the platform much faster than the control group of old mice that have not received the supplement.
To find the reason for the improvement shown by the plasmalogen-fed mice, the researchers took a closer look at changes occurring within the brain. They found that the mice that received the plasmalogen supplement had a higher quantity and quality of synapses (the connections between neurons) than the old mice that did not receive the supplements.
Synapses are a fundamental part of our neural networks and therefore crucial for learning and memory. Our synapses tend to be very plastic when we are children, but they decrease in number and deteriorate with age and in neurogenerative diseases, resulting in cognitive declines.
Consequently, in this study, old mice fed plasmalogen supplements showed a greater potential to learn new skills and create new neural networks than old mice whose diet received no supplements. This suggests that dietary plasmalogens may arrest age-related deterioration of synapses.
Another characteristic of aging, and one that is believed to be an important factor in neurodegeneration, is inflammation of the brain. Too much inflammation can have a negative effect on cognitive ability, as the brain’s immune system becomes overactive and turns on itself, attacking neurons and preventing synapses from working properly.
In this study, inflammation in aged mice was significantly decreased in those given plasmalogen supplementation compared to those on a normal diet, providing insight into why they performed better on learning and memory tasks.
Possible courses of action
Although it is not yet clear how plasmalogen dietary supplements appear to cause such significant changes in learning and memory, Professor Fu speculates on possible pathways of action.
“We found that plasmalogens significantly increase the number of molecules that help the growth and development of neurons and synapses in the brain. This suggests that plasmalogens may promote neurodegeneration.
“There is also a growing body of evidence that plasmalogens directly affect the structural properties of synapses. Plasmalogens can increase the fluidity and flexibility of synaptic membranes, which affects the transmission of impulses between neurons.”
Furthermore, Professor Fu explains that plasmalogens can also have indirect effects on our brain.
“Some studies have shown that dietary plasmalogens affect microorganisms in the gut. It has been widely reported that the connection between organisms in our gut and our brain influences neurodegeneration. It may be the effect of plasmalogen on this connection that causes the improvements in learning and memory seen in this study.”
Professor Fu is so convinced by the results of this study that he takes a plasmalogen supplement every day.
“For the first time, we show that plasmalogen supplementation could be a potential intervention strategy to arrest neurodegeneration and promote neuroregeneration.
“Oral intake of plasmalogens could be a feasible therapeutic strategy to improve cognitive function in older people.”
So it could be that a pill to keep you young isn’t such an unrealistic proposition after all, as long as it contains sea spray.
About this diet and aging research news
Author: diamond cat
Source: Xi’an jiaotong-Liverpool University
Contact: Cat Diamond – Xi’an jiaotong-Liverpool University
Image: The image is credited to Jpatokal.
original research: Open access.
“Plasmalogens eliminate synaptic defects associated with aging and microglia-mediated neuroinflammation in mice” by Jinxin Gu et al. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Plasmalogens eliminate aging-associated synaptic defects and microglia-mediated neuroinflammation in mice
Neurodegeneration is a pathological condition in which the nervous system or neuron loses its structure, function, or both, leading to progressive neural degeneration. Mounting evidence strongly suggests that reduced plasmalogens (Pls), one of the key brain lipids, could be associated with multiple neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Plasmalogens are abundant members of the ether-phospholipids. About 1 in 5 phospholipids are plasmalogens in human tissue where they are particularly enriched in brain, heart, and immune cells. In this study, we employed a 2-month intragastric administration schedule of Pls to aged C57BL/6J female mice, beginning at the age of 16 months.
Notably, aged Pls-fed mice exhibited better cognitive performance, thicker body hair, and shinier appearance than aged control mice.
Transmission electron microscope (TEM) data showed that 2-month Pls supplementation surprisingly alleviates age-associated hippocampal synaptic loss and also promotes synaptogenesis and synaptic vesicle formation in aged murine brain.
Further RNA sequencing, immunoblotting, and immunofluorescence analyzes confirmed that plasmalogens markedly enhanced both synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis in the aged murine hippocampus. Furthermore, we have shown that Pls treatment inhibited age-related microglia activation and attenuated neuroinflammation in the murine brain.
These findings suggest for the first time that Pls administration could be a potential intervention strategy to arrest neurodegeneration and promote neuroregeneration.