Platelets ‘can replicate benefits of exercise in brain’, shows study

The findings have significant implications for the development of drug interventions.

August 18, 2023 01:12 pm | Updated 01:20 pm IST - New Delhi

A new study published in Nature Communications found platelets to play an instrumental role in developing potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Image for representational purpose only.

A new study published in Nature Communications found platelets to play an instrumental role in developing potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Image for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Scientists have found that an injection of specific blood molecules can replicate the benefits of exercise in the brain, paving the way for potential new treatments for age-related cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

The study, published recently in the journal Nature Communications, found that platelets, the tiny blood cells critical for blood clotting, secrete a protein that rejuvenates neurons in aged mice in a similar way to physical exercise.

“We know exercise increases the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain important for learning and memory, but the mechanism hasn’t been clear,” said Odette Leiter from the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia.

“Our previous research has shown platelets are involved, but this study shows platelets are actually required for this effect in the aged mice,” Leiter said in a statement.

The study focused on exerkines, the biological compounds released into the bloodstream during exercise, which are believed to stimulate the exercise-induced response in the brain.

“We discovered that the exerkine CXCL4/Platelet factor 4 or PF4, which is released from platelets after exercise, results in regenerative and cognitive improvements when injected into aged mice,” Leiter said.

The findings have significant implications for the development of drug interventions.

ALSO READ:Explained | Will new drug slow progress of Alzheimer’s?

“For a lot of people with health conditions, mobility issues, or of advanced age, exercise isn’t possible, so pharmacological intervention is an important area of research,” said Tara Walker from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute.

“We can now target platelets to promote neurogenesis, enhance cognition and counteract age-related cognitive decline,” Walker said.

The researchers said the next step is to test the response in Alzheimer’s diseased mice, before moving towards human trials.

“It’s important to note this is not a replacement for exercise. But it could help the very elderly or someone who has had a brain injury or stroke to improve cognition,” Walker said.

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