Platelets in the brain can duplicate the advantages of exercise

Platelets secrete a protein that rejuvenates neurons in aged mice.


The beneficial effects of physical activity on brain aging are well recognized. Exercises—factors released into the bloodstream as a result of exercise—have emerged as plausible mediators of the protective effects of physical activity on brain aging. These exercises’ origin and identity, however, are yet unknown.

A new study by the University of Queensland shows that platelets secrete an anti-gerontic exercise. Researchers revealed in pre-clinical studies that an injection of a certain blood factor could duplicate the positive effects of exercise on the brain.

Scientists found that platelets secrete a protein that rejuvenates neurons in aged mice, similar to physical exercise.

Dr. Odette Leiter, from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute, said, “Our previous research has shown platelets are involved, but this study shows platelets are required for this effect in the aged mice.”

The exercises that are considered to activate the exercise-induced response in the brain were the main topic of the study. Exercises are biological substances that are released into the bloodstream during exercise. When injected into old rats, the exercise CXCL4/Platelet factor 4 or PF4, released from platelets after exercise, improves regenerative and cognitive functions.

Dr. Tara Walker from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute said, “The findings have significant implications for developing drug interventions.”

“For many people with health conditions, mobility issues or of advanced age, exercise isn’t possible, so pharmacological intervention is an important area of research.”

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

Before beginning human trials, scientists stated the next step is to assess the response in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Walker said, “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.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Leiter, O., Brici, D., Fletcher, S.J. et al. Platelet-derived exercise CXCL4/platelet factor 4 rejuvenates hippocampal neurogenesis and restores cognitive function in aged mice. Nat Commun 14, 4375 (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-39873-9
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