Microbes turn back the clock – could reverse brain aging

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University College Cork researchers discovers the potential of microbes to reverse aging in the brain.

Research from APC Microbiome Ireland (APC) SFI Research Centre at University College Cork (UCC) published today in Nature Aging introduces a novel approach to reverse aspects of aging-related deterioration in the brain and cognitive function via the microbes in the gut.

Longevity.Technology: As our population ages one of the key global challenges is to develop strategies to maintain healthy brain function. This ground-breaking research opens up a potentially new therapeutic avenues in the form of microbial-based interventions to slow down brain aging and associated cognitive problems.

There is a growing appreciation of the importance of the microbes in the gut on all aspects of physiology and medicine. In this latest mouse study, the authors show that by transplanting microbes from young into old animals they could rejuvenate aspects of brain and immune function [1].

The researchers explained in Nature Aging journal: “The gut microbiota is increasingly recognized as an important regulator of host immunity and brain health. The aging process yields dramatic alterations in the microbiota, which is linked to poorer health and frailty in elderly populations … Transplant of a microbiota from young donors reversed aging-associated differences in peripheral and brain immunity, as well as the hippocampal metabolome and transcriptome of aging recipient mice. Finally, the young donor-derived microbiota attenuated selective age-associated impairments in cognitive behavior when transplanted into an aged host. Our results reveal that the microbiome may be a suitable therapeutic target to promote healthy aging [1].”

The work was carried out by researchers at APC’s Brain-Gut-Microbiota lab, led by Professor John F Cryan, who is a principal investigator at APC, and vice president for research and innovation at University College Cork. APC is an SFI Research Centre, based in in University College Cork and Teagasc Moorepark.

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“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 Prof 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 [2].”

Although very exciting Cryan cautioned that “it is still early days and much more work is needed to see how these findings could be translated in humans.”

“This research of Professor Cryan and colleagues further demonstrates the importance of the gut microbiome in many aspects of health, and particularly across the brain/gut axis where brain functioning can be positively influenced,” added 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 [2].”

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[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/s43587-021-00093-9
[2] https://bit.ly/3mys4wr

Image credit: CDC / Unsplash
Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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