AUG 12, 2021 4:55 AM PDT

Gut Microbes Could Make Aging Brains Youthful Again

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Now that scientists can easily determine the composition of a gut microbiome by sequencing the DNA in a stool sample, more and more associations are being found between the microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract and human health. Dysfunction in the microbiome seems to lead to some diseases, and it may one day become more common to treat disease by using gut microbes or microbiome transplants. Fecal microbiome transplants (FMT) from healthy human donors have already been used to to successfully treat recurrent Clostridium difficile infections.

Professor John Cryan, Dr. Marcus Boehme, Katherine Guzzetta, Dr. Thomaz Bastiaanssen, UCC researchers at APC Microbiome Ireland / Credit: Clare Keogh

Researchers have now found that may be possible to use the microbiome to reverse some of the loss of brain and cognitive functions that typically accompanies aging. This work, which used a mouse model to demonstrate that some aspects of aging can be reversed with FMT, has been reported in Nature.

In this research, the authors showed that when gut microbes were transplanted from young mice into older ones, some aspects of brain and immune function were rejuvenated in the older mice. Not only did the elderly mice show behavioral changes that indicated a reversal of their aging symptoms, there was also evidence that after the FMT, the metabolism and gene expression in the hippocampus of aged mice were made more similar to what's seen in young mice.

The gut microbiome is thought to have a direct link to the brain through the gut-brain axis; there are nerves that go directly from the brain to the gut. More recently, researchers have begun to study the microbiota-gut-brain axis, in which the microbiome's influence on the endocrine system is also considered along with the central and enteric nervous systems.

Some previous research has found connections between the gut microbiome and aging; it seems to have a key role in the aging process, said Professor John F. Cryan of the APC Microbiome Ireland, part of the University College Cork.

As the number of older adults continues to increase worldwide and people are living to older ages, it will be important to ensure that medicine keeps up with these individuals. The study authors suggested that the microbiome could be one way to not only treat but reverse cognitive trouble.

"This new research is a potential game changer, as we have established that the microbiome can be harnessed to reverse age-related brain deterioration," said Cryan, who added that the mouse model also demonstrated evidence of improved learning and cognitive abilities.

Cryan acknowledged that there is a lot more work that has to be done before these findings can be confirmed in humans or used as a therapy. However, the microbiome represents an interesting therapeutic opportunity, because it might be possible to alter or maintain the composition of the microbiome with stuff like special foods or probiotics, and not drugs that may have many side effects.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University College Cork , Nature Aging

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 19, 2021
Immunology
Insights Into the Interplay Between COVID and the Nasal Microbiome
AUG 19, 2021
Insights Into the Interplay Between COVID and the Nasal Microbiome
There is a spectrum of COVID symptom severity: some recover after experiencing nothing more than a mild cough, while oth ...
AUG 23, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Better Health Monitoring Protects Nursing Home Residents
AUG 23, 2021
Better Health Monitoring Protects Nursing Home Residents
Residents of nursing homes are particularly susceptible to health complications. Around half of all individuals residing ...
AUG 31, 2021
Immunology
Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19 Doesn't Work
AUG 31, 2021
Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19 Doesn't Work
After encountering an infectious agent, the immune system begins churning out antibodies—Y-shaped warriors that ne ...
SEP 16, 2021
Immunology
Trapped! An Immune Cell Tag Team Takes Down Bacteria.
SEP 16, 2021
Trapped! An Immune Cell Tag Team Takes Down Bacteria.
Spiders are among nature’s most sophisticated hunters. Many build intricate webs out of silk and lie in wait for a ...
SEP 27, 2021
Microbiology
Rift Valley Fever's Infectious Secret is Revealed
SEP 27, 2021
Rift Valley Fever's Infectious Secret is Revealed
Rift Valley fever virus is carried by mosquitoes, and when it's passed to livestock including cattle, goats, and sheep, ...
OCT 17, 2021
Microbiology
Harmless Microbes Can be Pressured to Turn Bad
OCT 17, 2021
Harmless Microbes Can be Pressured to Turn Bad
The world is full of microorganisms. Luckily, most pose no threat to us. But some harmless bacteria have the potential t ...
Loading Comments...