Microbiome clock has the guts to tell your age

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Insilico and Harvard develop the first AI-powered microbiomic aging clock.

Scientists from Harvard Medical School and Insilico Medicine have used thousands of whole genome sequencing samples from gut bacteria to develop and validate a new deep microbiomic aging clock. Using this new tool, they found that the age of the host is a significant contributor to the dynamics of the gut community.

Longevity.Technology: AI is really making its presence felt in Longevity research, especially when it comes to deep aging clocks, which can predict human biological age using blood biochemistry, gene and protein expression, MRI scans and even photo and voice analysis. Comparing biological age with chronological age is key to understanding and slowing aging.

Gut bacteria are important contributors to immune function, brain development and activity and central metabolism, among many other processes. The roles microbiota play in our health mean we need to understand how gut communities are shaped and influenced and how we can use that understanding to manipulate them.

These microbiota are affected by our diet, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol consumption and age, meaning individual microfloras are extremely diverse.

Age-related trends in gut microflora have been identified in some studies, but the diverse nature of individuals’ microflora and the localised sampling, means until now there has not been any clear general applicability.​

In a joint project between Insilico Medicine and the laboratory of Vadim Gladyshev at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the data from 13 public studies on human gut microbiome were aggregated to explore the possibility of developing an aging clock based on the microflora relative abundance profiles.

More than 1100 species-level microflora samples were used to train a Deep Neural Network and the resulting clock predicts hosts’ age in an independent data set collection with a mean error of 5.9-6.8 years. The intestinal age predictor shows that there are microflora succession patterns associated with age progression in the adult [1].

The next step will be to explore the effect of specific bacteria on aging in a more controlled setting and identifying microbes with potential to accelerate or slow down aging.

Insilico Medicine also plans to continue developing microbiomic tools and will be releasing COVIDOMIC, a tool for exploring variables with an effect on the COVID-19 infection outcome, including those derived from patients’ respiratory microbiome.


“… New microbiomic aging clock … the first of its kind…”


 

Dr Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Insilico Medicine, said: “We are happy to collaborate with the Gladyshev lab on this new microbiomic aging clock, which is the first of its kind … We hope that the demonstrated approach will be used for COVID-19 research and later for longevity research for tracking the effects of different interventions and foods on the predicted intestinal age [2].”

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589004220303849
[2] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-06/im-cy061120.php

Image of Dr Alex Zhavoronkov courtesy of Insilico Medicine

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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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