Rejoice, couch potatoes! You could soon get the benefits of exercise without actually having to go to the trouble of doing exercise.
That's according to a new study by scientists at Stanford's School of Medicine, who found that injecting the plasma from marathon-running mice into their comparatively less active peers elicited the same brain benefits as if they had exercised themselves.
The scientists discovered that with an injection of blood, or more specifically plasma, couch-potato mice were able to increase their nerve-cell production and suffered less inflammation. They believe their findings could, in the future, help humans to lower their risk of neurodegenerative disease or slow its progression.
“We’ve discovered that this exercise effect can be attributed to a large extent to factors in the blood, and we can transfer that effect to a same-aged, non-exercising individual,” said the study's senior author, Tony Wyss-Coray.
To reach their findings, the scientists put either functional or locked running wheels into the cages of three-month-old lab mice. After a month of steady running, they found that the quantity of neurons and other cells in the brains of marathoner mice had increased when compared with those of the sedentary mice.
Next, the researchers collected blood from the marathoner and sedentary mice, and then, every three days, injected another group of sedentary mice with plasma from either the marathoner or couch-potato mice.
“The mice getting runner blood were smarter,” Wyss-Coray said.
During two different lab tests of memory, sedentary mice injected with marathoner plasma outperformed their equally sedentary peers who received couch-potato plasma. Additionally, the sedentary mice receiving plasma from marathoner mice had more cells that gave rise to new neurons in the hippocampus than those given couch-potato plasma transfusions.
“The runners’ blood was clearly doing something to the brain, even though it had been delivered outside the brain,” said Wyss-Coray.
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