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Turning back the block on the gut microbiome promotes healthier aging

Research conducted by immunologists at the Babraham Institute has demonstrated that transplanting faecal matter from younger mice to older mice revived the gut immune system by stimulating the gut microbiome.

The aging process is particularly hard on the gut, and age-related changes to the human gut microbiome have been linked to increased frailty, inflammation, and intestinal disorders. While these changes coincide with a decrease in the function of the gut immune system, it has not been clear whether there is a direct link.

“Our gut microbiomes are made up of hundreds of different types of bacteria and these are essential to our health, playing a role in our metabolism, brain function and immune response,” said study lead author Dr. Marisa Stebegg. “Our immune system is constantly interacting with the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. As immunologists who study why our immune system doesn’t work as well as we age, we were interested to explore whether the make-up of the gut microbiome might influence the strength of the gut immune response.”

Mice naturally like to sample the faecal pellets of other mice. The study showed that co-housing young and old mice boosted the gut immune system of aging mice, which partially corrected their age-related decline.

“To our surprise, co-housing rescued the reduced gut immune response in aged mice. Looking at the numbers of the immune cells involved, the aged mice possessed gut immune responses that were almost indistinguishable from those of the younger mice,” explained Dr. Michelle Linterman.

The findings demonstrate that damage to the gut immune response is not irreparable. According to the study, the decline can be reversed with the appropriate stimuli by turning back the clock on the gut immune system to more closely resemble the conditions found in a young mouse.

The study confirms a link between the effects of the aging immune system and age-related changes in the gut microbiome. Furthermore, the research suggests that probiotics and diet have the potential to promote healthier aging.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Marisa Stebegg, Babraham Institute

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