The transplantation of fecal microbiota from young mice to older mice has been found to reverse the aging process of the animals’ brains, eyes, and guts.
“[M]icrobial modulation may be of therapeutic benefit in preventing inflammation-related tissue decline in later life,” concluded the British scientists who conducted the research.
When the fecal microbiota transfers were made in reverse — from old mice to younger mice — they had an opposite, detrimental effect on the brain, eyes and guts.
Previous research has indicated that microbiota transfers in fish and flies has a direct impact in regulating lifespan and age-related disease.
Among other functions, gut microbes make plant food more digestible and help people absorb nutrients. Intestinal microbiota plays an integral role in maintaining a person’s (or animal’s) health. But as one ages, the microbiota changes and can adversely affect metabolism and the immune system, as well as contribute to certain disorders, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative.
In their study the British researchers said evidence showed that “gut microbes can influence brain health” and that certain functions of the brain can be “modulated” by gut microbes. Eye function, too, they wrote, can be impacted by an altered fecal microbial profile, such as in aging.
The young mice used in the research were three months old, and the aged mice 24 months. “[A]ge-associated inflammatory changes were reversed in aged mice by transfer of young donor microbiota,” the researchers reported.
How that research might translate into altering the aging processes in humans remains to be seen. But the British team saw at least some cause for optimism. “[It offers] tantalizing evidence for the direct involvement of gut microbes in aging and the functional decline of brain function and vision and offers a potential solution in the form of gut microbe replacement therapy,” said Prof. Simon Carding, a member of the research team and group leader of the Gut Microbes and Health research program at Quadram Institute in Norwich, UK.
The research team suggested further study is needed to determine whether fecal microbiota transplantation “can promote long-term health benefits in aged individuals and ameliorate age-associated deterioration.”
Fecal microbiota transplantation has only been approved by the FDA in the United States for use with C diff patients.