Eating sea squirts may reverse the signs of ageing, study shows | 研究表明吃海鞘可以逆转衰老迹象

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News Release

A new study shows that supplementing a diet with the sea organisms Ascidiacea, also known as sea squirts, reverses some of the main signs of ageing in an animal model

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

Sea pineapple sashimi
image: Sea squirts can be eaten raw and are found in dishes from Korea (where it is known as meongge, or 멍게) and Japan (hoya, or ホヤ). view more 

Credit: Jpatokal

If you have ever looked in the mirror and seen greying hair and wrinkles or forgotten the name of a close friend, you’d be forgiven for wishing for a pill that could slow or even reverse the effects of ageing.

A new study suggests that this may not be such a fantasy. Researchers from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Stanford University, Shanghai Jiao tong University, and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences have reported that supplementing a diet with the sea organisms Ascidiacea, also known as sea squirts, reverses some of the main signs of ageing in an animal model.

Sea squirts can be eaten raw and are found in dishes from Korea (where it is known as meongge, or 멍게) and Japan (hoya, or ホヤ). These sea organisms contain substances called plasmalogens, which are vital to our body processes. Plasmalogens are found all over our bodies naturally, particularly in the heart, brain and immune cells, but as we get older, the amount in our body decreases. This loss is also a characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

To investigate whether boosting the levels of plasmalogens can stave off the effects of ageing, the researchers studied the effects of adding plasmalogens to the diet of aged 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 may not just stop cognitive decline, but may reverse cognitive impairments in the ageing brain. Additionally, aged mice fed with the plasmalogens grow new black hair that is thicker and glossier than aged mice not fed the supplement.”

This study is the first to show, in detail, how plasmalogens affect the ageing brain.

Making new connections

The effects of the plasmalogen supplement on learning and memory were tested by training mice to use a Morris water maze – a pool of water that contains a platform that serves as a resting area. Generally, mice do not like to swim, so over five days of training, they remember where the platform is and swim directly to it as soon as they are in the pool. However, older mice take longer to find the platform after the same amount of training.

Astonishingly, when fed with plasmalogens, aged mice perform more like young mice, finding the platform much quicker than the control group of aged mice that have not been given the supplement.

To find the reason for the improvement shown by plasmalogen-fed mice, the researchers took a closer look at changes happening within the brain. They found that mice that were fed the plasmalogen supplement had a higher number and quality of synapses – the connections between neurones – than the aged mice not given 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 as children, but they decrease in number and deteriorate with age and in neurogenerative diseases, resulting in cognitive impairments.

Accordingly, in this study, the aged mice fed with plasmalogen supplements showed greater potential for learning new skills and creating new neural networks than the aged mice whose diet was not supplemented. This suggests that dietary plasmalogens can halt the age-related deterioration of synapses.

A further characteristic of getting older, and thought to be a significant factor in neurodegeneration, is inflammation in 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 neurones and preventing synapses from functioning correctly.

In this study, the inflammation in aged mice was greatly decreased in those given plasmalogen supplements compared to those on a normal diet, providing some insight as to why they performed better in learning and memory tasks.

Possible pathways of action

Although it is still unclear how dietary plasmalogen supplements seem 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 aid the growth and development of neurones and synapses in the brain. This suggests that plasmalogens can promote neuroregeneration.

“There is also an increasing body of evidence that plasmalogens directly affect the structural properties of synapses. Plasmalogens may increase the fluidity and flexibility of synaptic membranes, affecting the transmission of impulses between neurones.”

Additionally, Professor Fu explains that plasmalogens may also have indirect effects on our brains.

“Some studies have shown that dietary plasmalogens affect the microorganisms in the gut. It has been widely reported that the connection between the organisms in our gut and our brain influences neurodegeneration. It may be the plasmalogen’s effect 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 each day.

“For the first time, we show that plasmalogen supplements might be a potential intervention strategy for halting neurodegeneration and promoting neuroregeneration.

“The 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 may not be such an unrealistic proposition after all – as long as it contains sea squirts.

 

 


一项新的研究表明,在动物模型中添加海洋生物 Ascidiacea(也称为海鞘)可以逆转一些主要的衰老迹象

同行评审出版物

西交利物浦大学

图片:海鞘可以生吃,在韩国(称为 meongge,或 멍게)和日本(hoya,或 ホヤ)的菜肴中都有发现。查看更多

学分:Jpatokal

如果你曾经照过镜子,看到白发和皱纹,或者忘记了密友的名字,你会希望有一种可以减缓甚至逆转衰老影响的药丸,这是可以原谅的。

一项新的研究表明,这可能不是一个幻想。来自西交利物浦大学、斯坦福大学、上海交通大学和中国科学院大学的研究人员报告说,在饮食中添加海洋生物海鞘,也称为海鞘,可以逆转一些主要症状在动物模型中老化。

海鞘可以生吃,在韩国(被称为 meongge,或멍게)和日本(hoya,或ホヤ)的菜肴中找到。这些海洋生物含有一种叫做缩醛磷脂的物质,它对我们的身体过程至关重要。缩醛磷脂自然存在于我们的全身,特别是在心脏、大脑和免疫细胞中,但随着年龄的增长,我们体内的含量会减少。这种损失也是几种神经退行性疾病的特征,包括阿尔茨海默病和帕金森病。

为了研究提高缩醛磷脂水平是否可以延缓衰老的影响,研究人员研究了在老年小鼠的饮食中添加缩醛磷脂的效果。

他们发现补充剂对这些老鼠的学习能力和身体症状有深远的影响。

该研究的通讯作者傅雷教授说:“我们的研究表明,缩醛磷脂不仅可以阻止认知能力下降,还可以逆转衰老大脑中的认知障碍。此外,喂食缩醛磷脂的老年小鼠会长出比未喂食缩醛磷脂的老年小鼠更厚、更有光泽的新黑毛。”

这项研究首次详细展示了缩醛磷脂如何影响衰老的大脑。

建立新的联系

通过训练老鼠使用莫里斯水迷宫来测试缩醛磷脂补充剂对学习和记忆的影响 – 一个水池,其中包含一个用作休息区的平台。一般来说,老鼠不喜欢游泳,所以经过五天的训练,它们会记住平台的位置,并在进入游泳池后直接游向平台。然而,在相同数量的训练后,年长的老鼠需要更长的时间才能找到平台。

令人惊讶的是,当喂食缩醛磷脂时,老年小鼠的表现更像年轻小鼠,比未服用补充剂的对照组老年小鼠更快地找到平台。

为了找到缩醛磷脂喂养小鼠表现出改善的原因,研究人员仔细研究了大脑内发生的变化。他们发现,与未服用缩醛磷脂补充剂的老年小鼠相比,喂食缩醛磷脂补充剂的小鼠的突触(神经元之间的连接)的数量和质量更高。

突触是我们神经网络的基本组成部分,因此对学习和记忆至关重要。我们的突触在孩提时代往往具有很强的可塑性,但它们的数量会随着年龄的增长和神经退行性疾病而减少并恶化,从而导致认知障碍。

因此,在这项研究中,喂食缩醛磷脂补充剂的老年小鼠比未补充饮食的老年小鼠表现出更大的学习新技能和创建新神经网络的潜力。这表明膳食缩醛磷脂可以阻止与年龄相关的突触退化。

变老的另一个特征,被认为是神经退行性变的一个重要因素,是大脑中的炎症。过多的炎症会对认知能力产生负面影响,因为大脑的免疫系统变得过度活跃并自行启动,攻击神经元并阻止突触正常运作。

在这项研究中,与正常饮食的小鼠相比,服用缩醛磷脂补充剂的老年小鼠的炎症大大减少,这为它们在学习和记忆任务中表现更好的原因提供了一些见解。

可能的行动途径

尽管尚不清楚膳食缩醛磷脂补充剂似乎如何导致学习和记忆发生如此显着的变化,但傅教授推测了可能的作用途径。

“我们发现缩醛磷脂显着增加了有助于大脑中神经元和突触生长和发育的分子数量。这表明缩醛磷脂可以促进神经再生。

“还有越来越多的证据表明缩醛磷脂直接影响突触的结构特性。缩醛磷脂可能会增加突触膜的流动性和柔韧性,从而影响神经元之间的冲动传递。”

此外,傅教授解释说,缩醛磷脂也可能对我们的大脑产生间接影响。

“一些研究表明,膳食缩醛磷脂会影响肠道中的微生物。据广泛报道,我们肠道中的生物体和我们的大脑之间的联系会影响神经退行性变。可能是缩醛磷脂对这种联系的影响导致了本研究中学习和记忆的改善。”

傅教授对这项研究的结果深信不疑,以至于他每天服用缩醛磷脂补充剂。

“我们第一次表明,缩醛磷脂补充剂可能是一种潜在的干预策略,可以阻止神经变性和促进神经再生。

“口服缩醛磷脂可能是改善老年人认知功能的可行治疗策略。”

所以,让你保持年轻的药丸可能并不是一个不切实际的提议——只要它含有海鞘。

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