(ORDO NEWS) — It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but it’s based on cold research: transplanting fecal microbes from young mice into older mice likely reverses major signs of aging in the guts, eyes, and brains of older animals.
Further experiments showed that it also works the other way around: migrating microbes from the guts of older mice to younger mice caused the younger mice to show signs of aging, including increased inflammation in the brain and a decrease in a key protein needed for normal vision. The study was published in the journal Microbiome.
This is by no means a recipe for eternal youth, but as we get older we naturally become more susceptible to wear and tear and disease – partly due to how our gut degrades. These experiments show that something can be done about this, although so far it has only been done in mice.
“We tested the hypothesis that manipulation of the gut microbiota affects the development of major comorbidities associated with aging, and in particular inflammation affecting the brain and retina,” the researchers write in their published paper.
An increase in inflammation around the brain and retina in the eyes tends to occur as we get older, while age-related chronic inflammation is associated with specific immune cells.
When microbes from the feces were transferred from young to old mice, this inflammation showed signs of reversal. When the graft was moved in the opposite direction, the young mice began to show signs of intestinal aging and inflammation.
“Our results indicate that age-related changes in the mouse gut microbiota contribute to gut barrier disruption and systemic and tissue inflammation affecting the retina and brain, but these changes can be reversed by replacement with young donor microbiota,” the researchers write.
Scientific research is giving us more understanding of how gut microbes are related to our health whether it be mental health issues or physical health issues like obesity.
In other words, the mix of bacteria in our guts really matters, and changing that mix, whether through diet or fecal transplants, can bring many different health benefits.
Now the researchers are going to explore another option. Future research is planned to see how long the beneficial effects of these fecal transplants can last, and which gut microbes in particular control the observed effects. Scientists can then start to investigate whether this could work in humans as well.
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