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Gut Bacteria Can Turn Back Time on Brain Aging


Aging is inevitable, and it causes many changes in the body. One of the most common changes is brain deterioration and loss of cognitive function and memory. But there is good news. A team from University College Cork recently identified a connection between gut bacteria and turning back time to potentially reverse brain aging. 

The gut microbiome has long been recognized as important in immune and brain health, with research showing that aging causes alterations in the gut microbiome that are subsequently linked to poor health. There is abundant evidence supporting the link between poor microbial diversity and frailty and disease in older adults. 

The gut-brain axis has provided evidence that the gut communicates with the brain, but there is limited evidence of how aging affects this communication. As the microbiome ages and changes, this can change the messages sent to the brain and overall brain function. If an aging gut affects how your brain ages, is it then possible to reverse or slow brain aging with different bacteria?

Researchers in the Brain-Gut Microbiota lab at University College Cork set out to collect evidence to answer this. Using animal studies, the team wanted to identify how gut bacteria affect brain function in relation to aging. The team transplanted microbes from young donor mice (3-4 months) into older ones (19-20 months) and discovered that this transplantation:

♦ rejuvenated aspects of brain function 
♦ reversed signs of age-related brain deterioration
♦ reversed age-related differences in brain immunity
♦ reduced age-related impairments in cognitive behavior
♦ improved learning and cognitive function in older animals

Gut-brain connection

What became clear from this research is that not only can gut bacteria can influence brain function, but it can also improve it through the aging process. Age-related changes to the gut will inevitably alter the microbiome, but with therapeutic intervention, a ‘younger’ microbiome can be developed. Once established, this gut community will positively influence brain function and healthy aging. 

As the population continues to age, it is becoming necessary to develop strategies that maintain brain function. The ground-breaking research from Cork opens the door for many therapeutic possibilities. Microbial interventions that slow brain degeneration and age-related cognitive deficiencies can turn back time. In the end, your age will be nothing but a number. 

Journal reference:

Boehme, M., Guzzetta, K.E., Bastiaanssen, T.F.S. et al. (2021). Microbiota from young mice counteracts selective age-associated behavioral deficits. Nature Aging, vol. 1, p. 666–676.