Fecal Transplants Reverse Hallmarks of Aging in the Gut, Eyes, and Brain

In an experiment on mice, transplanting fecal microbiota from young into old reversed hallmarks of aging in the gut, eyes, and brain

In the quest for eternal youth, poo transplants may seem like an unlikely way to reverse the aging process.

However, scientists at the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia have provided evidence, from research in mice, that transplanting fecal microbiota from young into old mice can reverse the hallmarks of aging in the gut, eyes, and brain.

In the reverse experiment, microbes from aged mice induced inflammation in the brain of young recipients and depleted a key protein required for normal vision.

These findings show that gut microbes play a role in regulating some of the detrimental effects of aging and open up the possibility of gut microbe-based therapies to combat the decline in later life.

Prof Simon Carding, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and head of the Gut Microbes and Health Research Programme at the Quadram Institute, said: “This ground-breaking study provides 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.”

It has been known for some time that the population of microbes that we carry around in our gut, collectively called the gut microbiota, is linked to health. Most diseases are associated with changes in the types and behavior of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes in an individual’s gut.

Some of these changes in microbiota composition happen as we age, adversely affecting metabolism and immunity, and this has been associated with age-related disorders including inflammatory bowel diseases, along with cardiovascular, autoimmune, metabolic, and neurodegenerative disorders.

To better understand the effects of these changes in the microbiota in old age, scientists from the Quadram Institute transferred the gut microbes from aged mice into healthy young mice, and vice versa. They then looked at how this affected inflammatory hallmarks of aging in the gut, brain and eye, which suffer from declining function in later life.

The study, published in the journal Microbiome, found that the microbiota from old donors led to loss of integrity of the lining of the gut, allowing bacterial products to cross into the circulation, which results in triggering the immune system and inflammation in the brain and eyes.

Age-related chronic inflammation, known as inflammaging, has been associated with the activation of specific immune cells found in brain. These cells were also over-activated in the young mice who received aged microbiome transplants.

In the eye, the team also found specific proteins associated with retinal degeneration were elevated in the young mice receiving microbiota from old donors.

In old mice, these detrimental changes in the gut, eye and brain could be reversed by transplanting the gut microbiota from young mice.

In ongoing studies, the team is now working to understand how long these positive effects can last, and to identify the beneficial components of the young donor microbiota and how they impact on organs distant from the gut.

The microbiota of young mice, and the old mice who received young microbiota transplants were enriched in beneficial bacteria that have previously been associated with good health in both mice and humans.

The researchers have also analyzed the products which these bacteria produce by breaking down elements of our diet. This has uncovered significant shifts in particular lipids (fats) and vitamin metabolism, which may be linked to the changes seen in inflammatory cells in the eye and brain.

Similar pathways exist in humans, and the human gut microbiota also changes significantly in later life, but the researchers caution about extrapolating their results directly to humans until similar studies in elderly humans can be performed.

A new facility for Microbiota Replacement Therapy (MRT), also known as Faecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) is being built in the Quadram Institute that will facilitate such trials, as well as other trials for microbiota-related conditions.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Aimee Parker from the Quadram Institute said: “We were excited to find that by changing the gut microbiota of elderly individuals, we could rescue indicators of age-associated decline commonly seen in degenerative conditions of the eye and brain.

“Our results provide more evidence of the important links between microbes in the gut and healthy aging of tissues and organs around the body. We hope that our findings will contribute ultimately to understanding how we can manipulate our diet and our gut bacteria to maximize good health in later life.”

The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.

Fecal microbiota transfer between young and aged mice reverses hallmarks of the aging gut, eye, and brain’ is published in the journal Microbiome.

Reference: “Fecal microbiota transfer between young and aged mice reverses hallmarks of the aging gut, eye, and brain” by Aimée Parker, Stefano Romano, Rebecca Ansorge, Asmaa Aboelnour, Gwenaelle Le Gall, George M. Savva, Matthew G. Pontifex, Andrea Telatin, David Baker, Emily Jones, David Vauzour, Steven Rudder, L. Ashley Blackshaw, Glen Jeffery and Simon R. Carding, 29 April 2022, Microbiome.
DOI: 10.1186/s40168-022-01243-w

AgingAnti-agingBrainEyesLongevityMicrobiomePopularPublic HealthUniversity of East Anglia
Comments ( 18 )
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  • Germaine

    Better than the face lift in the movie Brazil…that was an awesome movie though

  • Mark

    This sounds very promising, I’m sure there are other benefits not mentioned/studied in this report. Too bad it costs so much.

  • Fred Pittenger

    I will gulp down some more Kefir while contemplating this idea

  • Amy Newman

    Mark, if you have healthy, young relatives, you can do it yourself fairly easily.

  • Larry

    So, “Eat S**t” is a good thing?

  • Peadog007

    And the laboratory mice get to keep their jobs. Til they die anyway.

  • Lee

    At least 80% of the “ground breaking” discoveries this website reports on are in fact ground breaking research in mice physiology. I have yet to see any compelling evidence that research on mice or indeed any other animals has led to any significant discoveries in human physiology. Almost all of these studies mean not a thing for humans because we are indeed not mice, we are humans. It would be great if what worked on mice also worked on humans but it is clear it does not work like that. So please governments stop funding these sham research gimmicks and this website stop reporting these click bait stories.

    • Kelly

      Lee, please see my comment – I too am skeptical of much of what passes for research these days and there is much manipulation in “junk science”. This is NOT junk science. Please check out the research and FDA trials that have been done on living human patients of Dr. Sabine Hazan https://www.venturaclinicaltrials.com/ She has resolved issues in 99% of her patients for all kinds of disorders.

      • PR

        Kelly, people like Lee have no clue about scientific processes, specifically in this example about how animal research is always done BEFORE human trials can even be thought about. Understanding processes of any sort isn’t something encouraged by Tucker Carlson, so they stand up “mad as hell” and wonder why everyone else is laughing at them. He doesn’t even understand statistics … I mean, has he really researched all of the stories reported on this website to determine that “80%” are wrong? He may as well have said 200% or 3000% … they don’t understand anything they can’t see in their own backyard.

  • Kelly

    If anyone doubts this research – claiming it’s only been shown in lab mice – please check out the work of Dr. Sabine Hazan with Ventura Clinical Trials https://www.venturaclinicaltrials.com/ She has been doing fecal transplants in patients for decades with amazing success and is also doing trials for the FDA. Read more about fecal transplants here (has been used going back to the 1300s) https://drsabinehazansteinberg.com/fecal-transplant/

  • Jacqualine

    Would it not be beneficial to just take probiotics?

  • Jacqualine

    Would it not be beneficial to just take probiotics? Or does it not have the same effect?

    • Sonya

      A healthy person’s poo would have different microbes and ratios than probiotics. Microbiome research is still new, and they don’t know yet what some of the microbes do. But I would wager that eventually, a patient’s stool sample could be collected then specific probiotics could be prescribed.

  • Sasha

    If we assume that implied aging scenario is as follows: microbiota starts good, but along the course of life it “degrades” (from organism’s POV) and becomes detrimental, or just unable to supply beneficial nutrients, then what process (assuming feeding habits remain same) drives this change in microbiota? In which biochemical (or other) way the age of an animal organism affects its microbiota change? Or is it just some sort of long-drawn microbe war in which eventually baddies/freeloaders win?

  • Jack of Asses

    So basically, “Eat Sh*t and Live”……

    • Chas

      You don’t eat it, you boof it, because your stomach acid would destroy most of the microbiota that you ingested. Also, yuck!

  • Phala

    Does this mean eating ass will make me live longer?

  • Kirk

    mice lie and monkeys exaggerate, was ever thus.