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Gut microbes may be the key to healthy aging

Gut microbes may be a new therapeutic target to promote healthy aging, according to the results of a new study from University College Cork (UCC).

The researchers have introduced a novel approach to reverse age-related deterioration in the brain through the gut microbiome.

“The gut microbiota is increasingly recognized as an important regulator of host immunity and brain health,” wrote the study authors. 

“The aging process yields dramatic alterations in the microbiota, which is linked to poorer health and frailty in elderly populations. However, there is limited evidence for a mechanistic role of the gut microbiota in brain health and neuroimmunity during aging processes.” 

To investigate, the experts conducted fecal microbiota transplantation from either young or old donor mice into aged recipient mice. The young donor-derived microbiota were found to reduced age-associated impairments in cognitive behavior among the aging recipients. 

The research team was led by Professor John F. Cryan, Vice President for Research & Innovation, University College Cork as well as a Principal Investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland.

“Previous research published by the APC and other groups internationally has shown that the  gut microbiome plays a key role in aging and the aging process,” said Professor Cryan.

“This new research is a potential game changer, as we have established that the microbiome can be harnessed to reverse age-related brain deterioration. We also see evidence of improved learning ability and cognitive function.”

While the research is very exciting, Professor Cryan cautions that much more research is needed to see how these findings could be translated in humans.

The study is particularly relevant today, as the global population ages. Nearly every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number of older individuals in their population.

With this is mind, it is critically important to develop strategies to maintain healthy brain function. The groundbreaking new research opens up a potentially new therapeutic strategy that targets gut microbes to slow down brain aging and associated cognitive problems. 

“This research of Professor Cryan and colleagues further demonstrates the importance of the gut microbiome in many aspects of health, and particularly across across the brain/gut axis where brain functioning can be positively influenced,” said APC Director Professor Paul Ross. 

“The study opens up possibilities in the future to modulate gut microbiota as a therapeutic target to influence brain health.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Aging.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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