Scientists from England’s Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia have found that transplanting fecal microbiota from young mammals into older ones may help reverse key signs of aging in the gut, brain, and eyes. They began with an experiment proving the opposite: by transplanting fecal microbiota from old mice into younger mice, the researchers saw that the older microbes weakened the lining of the gut, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation in the brain and eyes. The younger mice also experienced retinal degeneration, possibly linked to lipid and vitamin metabolism changes caused by the shift in the gut’s ecosystem.
Then the researchers swapped directions, transplanting fecal microbiota from young mice into old mice. The guts of the old mice were found to be rich with bacteria associated with improved health in rodents and humans. The negative effects experienced by the young mice that had received fecal microbiota from older mice were also able to be reversed upon transplantation from other young mice with healthy gut microbiomes.
We’ve known for a while that gut microbes have the power to influence one’s overall health. (Social media influencers, with all their tummy teas and aloe vera shots, have been milking this for a while.) While it’s been suspected that these microbes impact age-related diseases like cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders, this appears to be the first time researchers have created a proof-of-concept for reversing the onset of such diseases using the microbes themselves. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how long the positive effects of younger mammals’ fecal microbiota can last with older mammals.
In the meantime, the Quadram Institute is working on constructing a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) center, which will allow researchers to continue testing the effects of FMT on aging and other biological processes. These trials may someday involve humans, who have not undergone FMT for the purpose of aging reversal so far.
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