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2021-08-15| Technology

Can the Gut Microbiome Prevent Age-Related Decline of Brain Function?

by Sahana Shankar
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Human lifespan has increased dramatically in the 21st century, due to improved understanding of microbiology in healthcare and disease. This has spawned molecular research into aging, to ensure that quality of life can be maintained in the elderly population.

Recent work has revealed the gut microbiome as the key determinant in the maintenance of physiological and psychological health. It can be inherited and helps maintain immunity, metabolism, mental health, response to drugs, etc. Maintaining the optimum gut microbiome has also been correlated with anti-aging benefits.

Several reports have established the “brain/gut axis” wherein gut microbes have a significant impact on brain morphology and function. In a study published in Nature Ageing, scientists from the Brain-Gut-Microbiota lab in APC Microbiome Ireland revealed the intricate relationship between age-related cognitive deterioration and the gut microbiome. 

 

Microbiome Transplant from Young Reverses Age Related Gene Expression

By transplanting the gut microbiome from young mice (3-4 months) into older mice (19-20 months), the authors performed a comparative analysis of the transcriptome, metabolome, immune response, learning, and cognitive behavior between transplanted and non-transplanted aged mice.

They observed a reversal of age-related differences in hippocampal gene expression, metabolism and no marked decrease in brain immunity in transplanted mice. Additionally, the transplant also slowed down age-associated cognitive decline in aged mice. This suggests that the gut microbiome may be an ideal target to modulate brain function in elderly people to minimize cognitive impairments.

Related article: The Defining Role of Metabolism in Human Health and Disease

 

New Perspective on Protecting Brain Function During Aging

While this is a proof-of-concept study in mice, to suggest a link between the gut microbiome and brain health, more studies in humans would be required before the results can be entirely translated. However, the study provides more credence to the growing importance of the gut microbiome to control many aspects of our health.

Lead author, Prof. John F. Cryan, Principal Investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland and University College Cork described the study as a “ potential game changer”, which established that “ the microbiome can be harnessed to reverse age-related brain deterioration”. With more research, we will be able to prevent the age-associated decline of cognitive function, memory, and learning in older people by modulating their gut microbiome.

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