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Blood from marathoner mice boosts brain function in their couch-potato counterparts

By Bruce Goldman


Physical exercise is great for a mouse’s brain, and for yours. Numerous studies conducted in mice, humans and laboratory glassware have made this clear. Now, a new study shows it’s possible to transfer the brain benefits enjoyed by marathon-running mice to their couch-potato peers.

Stanford School of Medicine researchers have shown that blood from young adult mice that are getting lots of exercise benefits the brains of same-aged, sedentary mice. A single protein in the blood of exercising mice seems largely responsible for that benefit.

The discovery could open the door to treatments that — by taming brain inflammation in people who don’t get much exercise — lower their risk of neurodegenerative disease or slow its progression.

In the study, published Dec. 8 in Nature, the Stanford researchers compared blood samples from exercising and sedentary mice of the same age. They showed that transfusions of blood from running mice reduced neuroinflammation in the sedentary mice and improved their cognitive performance. In addition, the researchers isolated a blood-borne protein that appears to play an important role in the anti-neuroinflammatory exercise effect.

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