• Treating cognitively impaired mice with sea cucumber peptides (SCP) enhances memory in a dose-dependent manner. 
  • SCP protects against neuronal damage and improves synapse plasticity. 

Aging is closely intertwined with cognitive impairment, as the passage of time can introduce unwarranted changes in learning and memory capabilities. Aging researchers are continuously looking for natural compounds capable of mitigating age-related cognitive decline, and emerging evidence points to sea cumber peptides (SCP) as potential candidates, as they hold neuroprotective properties. 

In a new study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, researchers from Dalian Polytechnic University in China demonstrated that treating cognitively impaired (CI) mice with SCP ameliorates memory deficits. Furthermore, the investigators found that SCP mitigates neuronal damage and strengthens synapse plasticity. 

SCP Protects Against Cognitive Impairment

To model cognitive impairment, Lu and colleagues treated CI mice with scopolamine, an agent commonly utilized to induce memory deficits. Simultaneously, mice were also either treated with a low (162.5 mg/kg/day), medium (325 mg/kg/day), or high (650 mg/kg/day) of SCP. 

Following SCP treatment, the investigators evaluated SCP’s neuroprotective effects in CI mice. First, they employed the Morris water maze test to assess spatial memory. This test monitored the mice’s ability to locate a hidden platform in a pool of water. The results revealed that SCP dose-dependently ameliorated spatial memory deficits, with the high-dose SCP mice taking the least amount of time to locate the hidden platform. 

Following the assessment of spatial memory, the investigators conducted another behavioral memory test, namely the passive avoidance test. This test serves as a fear-based learning assessment, gauging rodents’ capacity to remember unpleasant stimuli. In this setup, rats were positioned near a dark chamber, triggering a foot shock upon entry. Accordingly, mice with fewer re-entries into the dark chamber after the conditioning phase were classified as possessing enhanced learning and memory skills, highlighting their retention of the adverse foot shock. Moreover, the investigators found that SCP-treated mice entered the dark room significantly less than untreated mice, further demonstrating the neuroprotective effects of SCP. 

(Lu et al., 2023 | Journal of Functional Foods) Sea cucumber peptides ameliorate cognitive impairment. Mice treated with a low (L-SCP), medium (M-SCP), or high (H-SCP) dose of SCP took significantly less time to escape the water maze (Left) and entered the dark room fewer times than untreated mice, demonstrating improved memory. 

SCP Restores Neuron Health

Maintaining optimal neuron health is pivotal to preserving memory as we age, as neurons constitute the fundamental framework of our cognitive abilities. These intricate cells heavily rely on functional synapses – neuronal junctions that allow electrical or chemical signals to be transmitted between neurons. Moreover, synapse plasticity – the ability of neural connections to adapt and strengthen — plays a crucial role in maintaining cognitive function and enhancing our capacity to learn and remember as we get older. 

Lu and colleagues checked if SCP could restore synapse plasticity in CI mice, measuring a well-established marker of synapse plasticity (Syn). The results showed that SCP, particularly the high-dose treatment, restored Syn activity to that of healthy control mice, indicating that SCP strengthens synaptic plasticity in CI mice. 

Following these results, the investigators examined whether the improved synapse plasticity was associated with less neuron damage. The research team proceeded to analyze the morphology of neurons in the hippocampus – the brain region responsible for learning and memory – and found that SCP-treated mice exhibited more healthy neurons and fewer dead neurons than untreated CI mice. Collectively, the study’s findings suggest that SCP protects against cognitive impairment by strengthening synapse plasticity and preserving neuron health. 

(Lu et al., 2023 | Journal of Functional Foods) Sea cucumber peptides strengthen synapse plasticity. Mice treated with a high (H-SCP) dose of SCP exhibit greater Syn levels, indicating healthier synapse plasticity. 

Taking Sea Cucumber Peptides to Promote Healthy Aging 

Sea cucumber peptides have garnered attention for their potential benefits in promoting healthy aging. Like many potential longevity compounds, SCP holds potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, which studies have shown are paramount to fighting aging and disease. Additionally, studies have found that sea cucumber peptides exert anti-diabetes, anti-cancer, and anti-fatigue effects, further highlighting SCP’s potential to promote healthy aging. Although further studies are needed to fully comprehend SCP’s longevity benefits, SCP supplements are already available for use. Nevertheless, make sure to always consult with a primary care physician before starting any new supplements.