Fecal transplants are not just for IBS; they're also for reversing aging

Many of our IBS Life readers may already be familiar with the benefits of fecal transplants in improving IBS symptoms – they have been shown to improve symptoms such as bloating, pain, and challenges with bowel movement. Now, a new study on fecal transplants could also lead to the fountain of youth.

Scientists at the Quadram Institute in England announced that transplanting fecal microbiota from young to old test subjects can reverse hallmarks of aging in the gut, eyes, and brain. Their findings show that gut microbes play a role in regulating some of the effects of aging and open up the possibility of gut microbe-based therapies in the near future.

"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," said Professor Simon Carding from UEA's Norwich Medical School and head of the Gut Microbes and Health Research Program at the Quadram Institute.

Researchers have known that 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 the microbiome affect metabolism and immunity, and this has been associated with age-related disorders including:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Cardiovascular afflictions

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Metabolic conditions

  • Neurodegenerative issues

To better understand the effects of aging and the link to microbiota, the researchers from the Institute transferred the gut microbes of older mice into healthy young mice and vice versa. They then looked at how this impacted aging in the gut, brain, and eye. For example, they discovered that the microbes from aged mice induced inflammation in the brain of the young mice, reducing a key protein needed for normal vision. In the eye, the team also found specific proteins associated with the degeneration of the retina were elevated in the young mice.

Interestingly, changes in the gut, eye, and brain could be reversed by transplanting the gut microbiota from young mice to aged mice. 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 study was published in the journal Microbiome. Results of this promising research have led the Quadram Institute to establish the Fecal Microbiota Transplantation program, designed to expedite new research and future therapies.