Posted on 10 August 2021
Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.
Why is this research important: It is becoming clear that the microbes in our gut can have a profound effect on our health. Not only are the bacterial populations in our guts important for the digestion of foods, but they also communicate with our immune systems and nervous systems through the signals they release, and are thereby able to influence our health in ways we might not expect. The gut microbiome becomes less diverse during ageing, which might contribute to age-related decline of other organs including the brain. However, it’s not always clear to what extent the microbiota is actually responsible for these changes.
What did the researchers do: In this study, researchers studied the levels of inflammation (thought to play a key role in ageing) in the brains of aged mice (19-20 months old), and also studied their cognitive performance using a maze test in which the mice needed to find a hidden platform. They then transplanted the gut microbiomes of either young (3-4 month-old) or equally aged (19-20 month old) mice into the guts of the aged recipients.
Key takeaway(s) from this research: Receiving gut microbiome transplants from young mice reversed the changes in immune function and inflammation seen in the older mice, and also made the metabolic activity and gene expression in the hippocampus (a brain region involved in learning and memory) more closely resemble that of the younger animals. The recipients of gut bacteria from younger mice also performed better in the maze test than those receiving bacteria from older animals.
These results seem to suggest that the health of the gut microbiome may indeed affect brain ageing, at least in mice. We still don’t know whether this relationship works the same way in humans, nor do we really understand the mechanisms behind it. Even so, based on the story so far, paying attention to your gut bacteria looks to be a pretty good bet if you want to live a longer and healthier life.
Microbiota from young mice counteracts selective age-associated behavioral deficits: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43587-021-00093-9#additional-information
Gut bacteria rewind ageing brain in mice: https://theconversation.com/gut-bacteria-rewind-ageing-brain-in-mice-165831