Eating Sea Squirts May Reverse the Signs of Aging

Summary: Supplementing a diet with Ascidiacea, or sea squirts, reversed some of the main signs of aging in mouse models.

Source: Xi’an jiaotong-Liverpool University

If you have ever looked in the mirror and seen graying 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 aging.

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 aging 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 aging, 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 aging 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 aging 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 neurons—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 neurons and preventing synapses from functioning correctly.

This shows sea squirts
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). Credit: Jpatokal

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 neurons and synapses in the brain. This suggests that plasmalogens can promote neurodegeneration.

“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 neurons.”

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.

About this diet and aging research news

Author: Cat Diamond
Source: Xi’an jiaotong-Liverpool University
Contact: Cat Diamond – Xi’an jiaotong-Liverpool University
Image: The image is credited to Jpatokal

Original Research: Open access.
Plasmalogens Eliminate Aging-Associated Synaptic Defects and Microglia-Mediated Neuroinflammation in Mice” by Jinxin Gu et al. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences


Abstract

Plasmalogens Eliminate Aging-Associated Synaptic Defects and Microglia-Mediated Neuroinflammation in Mice

Neurodegeneration is a pathological condition in which nervous system or neuron losses its structure, function, or both leading to progressive neural degeneration. Growing evidence strongly suggests that reduction of plasmalogens (Pls), one of the key brain lipids, might be associated with multiple neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Plasmalogens are abundant members of ether-phospholipids. Approximately 1 in 5 phospholipids are plasmalogens in human tissue where they are particularly enriched in brain, heart and immune cells. In this study, we employed a scheme of 2-months Pls intragastric administration to aged female C57BL/6J mice, starting at the age of 16 months old.

Noticeably, the aged Pls-fed mice exhibited a better cognitive performance, thicker and glossier body hair in appearance than that of aged control mice.

The transmission electron microscopic (TEM) data showed that 2-months Pls supplementations surprisingly alleviate age-associated hippocampal synaptic loss and also promote synaptogenesis and synaptic vesicles formation in aged murine brain.

Further RNA-sequencing, immunoblotting and immunofluorescence analyses confirmed that plasmalogens remarkably enhanced both the synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis in aged murine hippocampus. In addition, we have demonstrated that Pls treatment inhibited the age-related microglia activation and attenuated the neuroinflammation in the murine brain.

These findings suggest for the first time that Pls administration might be a potential intervention strategy for halting neurodegeneration and promoting neuroregeneration.

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  1. I am 55 and I notice that NY cognitive ability is worsening. I am about to have surgery on my neck. I have a pinch nerve and they going to repair my C3 through C6. I have experienced. Going to the drawer to get a pen which is located beside my refrigerator but I opened the refrigerator instead. Get ready to go to get something in another room and I have to go back to the room to remember where I was supposed to go. I’ve notice this over the years. In my adolescent years I experienced, tingling and numbness in my hands,arms and legs, caught cramps in my fingers and toes.Then I started having headaches.I had to have my wisdom tooth(all 4) cut out at age 32. I started my menstrual cycle at age 16. I am a late bloomer. When my headaches continued they found a protruding blood vessel on my brain. Then my neck had a extra large jugular vain they said. I lost my ability of my right side back in September 2019 and the MRI and CT SCAN doesn’t show no stroke, but NP says I definitely had a TIA. All my life my blood work has been low(calcium,potassium,albumin, bulburin) other things like my hemoglobin, blood pressure ranging 90/60 95/68 and nobody never said anything. Now they tell me that was drastically to low. Had many infections,catch flu, bronchitis, ear infections. May white blood count is always high. I’ve experienced Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever(got bite in the USA, in my home town twice outside my home and library.I stay cold all the time. IDuring my first pregnancy I noticed my left hip and under my buttocks was really tight and I started limping with my leg. I lost my child at 3months I was 6 months pregnant, my appendix ruptured and they had to do an appendectomy in 1991 I was 24 and then in July 1996 at 31.I had a complete hysterectomy(3 fibroid tumors,uterus tilted,3 polyps on uterus, cancer on cervix. A few months later diagnosed with Firomyalgia.In 2007 I had Shingles, but nevrr as a child had Chicken pox. I even babysitted kids with chivken pox and din’t get either when my siblings had it. In 2015 I had the Flu 4 times despite I take the shot year after year. When COVID hit, My Rheumatologist(I have Rheumatoid Arthritis) told me not to get the shots, but I find because I wanted to travel; but to my surprise I had a bad experience upon taking the shots(Moderna 1&2 and the booster. My body is covered with Osteoporosis. I have muscle spasms despite taking muscle relaxers. I had Vertigo a lot and now headaches so bad I have to go to ER sometimes.Now my XRAYS and MRI’S say dengenarative everything. My other siblings now show signs of poor circulation,bad back issues. My baby brother had a spinal infusion last year. My brother has blood clots and my sister is diabetic now and is haing trouble with her heart now. They all have high blood pressure, but I don’t. My body feels like I’m in my late 80’s though.

  2. Our company makes such a supplement, Neuroplas, and it contains the main and most important
    plasmalogen, ethanolamine plasmalogen. High in the Omega 3 DHA, contains curcumin, quercetin,piperine and ocular essentials. It is the only company in the World that provides and economical amount of the ethanolamine plasmalogen.

      1. We have been advocating ethanolamine plasmalogens since 2016, the science behind that molecule is rock solid. However it must have a healthy dose of DHA attached to that plasmalogen, i.e. marine sourced, and a ratio of DHA to EPA of 2 to 3 to 1. Chicken sourced ethanolamine doesn’t cut the mustard and ascidians don’t really. DHA is the king of Omega 3’s for anything above the shoulder. NeuroRegain, a Japanese company, produce a scallop based plasmalogen, high in DHA but a much lower plasmalogen level per capsule. Our marine source is proprietary but meets our requirements.If you Google Bio-Mer and Neuroplas you will find us, we are New Zealand based.

      2. Google Neuroplas, our company is Bio-Mer. The science behind ethanolamine plasmalogensis is rock solid, has been since the last century, literally. Whether supplements would work is another matter. Many said that the stomach would wreck the plasmalogens however there is abundant evidence that the doomsdayers were wrong and indeed they survive in the stomach. Notwithstanding that, survival is immaterial if you go enteric delivery which we did in the earlier days.
        Joe Cave

  3. Very interesting your article about Searsquirts. You mention there are pills, since in Costa Rica is difficult to
    Find it like in Japan or Korea.
    Please advice how I can get pills nearby
    I very much appreciate you information.

    1. I would truly hope that I could find some where to have a chance to try this supplement . I have Lupus and maybe it could give me some hope for regenerating some Neuro problems I have experienced .Please contact me at my husband’s email address , I only have a Gmail address , I sometimes do not get replays on it though !

  4. This is very exciting! I would like to find a reliable source for “Sea Squirts”….I am a 79 yr old male & am experiencing cognitive decline.

    1. I would be very interested in receiving this product see how it can help me I have Lupus and anything That would help me I would be very willing to try

  5. “This suggests that plasmalogens can promote neurodegeneration.”
    I think the author or typist meant to write “promote neuroregeneration”. A simple typo that is important to correct in order to avoid confusion or to promote clarity. Or did I misread something?

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