Altering the community of gut bacteria promotes health and increases lifespan

January 16, 2014, Buck Institute for Age Research

Scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have promoted health and increased lifespan in Drosophila by altering the symbiotic, or commensal, relationship between bacteria and the absorptive cells lining the intestine. The research, appearing in the January 16, 2014 edition of Cell, provides a model for studying many of the dysfunctions that are characteristic of the aging gut and gives credence to the growing supposition that having the right balance of gut bacteria may be key to enjoying a long healthy life.

Even though recent research in humans has linked the composition of with diet and in the elderly and the list of age-related diseases associated with changes in gut bacteria include cancer, diabetes, and , lead author and Buck faculty Heinrich Jasper, PhD, says there is no systematic understanding of how we go from having a young, healthy gut to one that is old and decrepit. "Our study explores age-related changes in the gut that include increased oxidative stress, inflammation, impaired efficiency of the , and the over-proliferation of stem cells," said Jasper. "It puts these changes into a hierarchical, causal relationship and highlights the points where we can intervene to rescue the negative results of microbial imbalance."

Jasper says the bacterial load in fly intestines increases dramatically with age, resulting in an inflammatory condition. The imbalance is driven by chronic activation of the stress response gene FOXO (something that happens with age), which suppresses the activity of a class of molecules (PGRP-SCs, homologues of PGLYRPs in humans) that regulate the immune response to bacteria. PGRP-SC suppression deregulates signaling molecules (Rel/NFkB) that are important to mount an effective immune response to . The resulting immune imbalance allows bacterial numbers to expand, triggering an inflammatory response that includes the production of . Free radicals, in turn, cause over-proliferation of in the gut, resulting in epithelial dysplasia, a pre-cancerous state.

Jasper said the most exciting result of their study occurred when his group increased the expression of PGRP-SC in epithelial cells of the gut, which restored the microbial balance and limited stem cell proliferation. This enhancement of PGRP-SC function, which could be mimicked by drugs, was sufficient to increase lifespan of flies. "If we can understand how aging affects our commensal population – first in the fly and then in humans - – our data suggest that we should be able to impact health span and life span quite strongly, because it is the management of the commensal population that is critical to the health of the organism."

Explore further: Friends in low places preserve gut health

More information: "PGRP-SC2 Promotes Gut Immune Homeostasis to Limit Commensal Dysbiosis and Extend Lifespan" ; publishing January 12, 2014 in Cell.

Related Stories

Friends in low places preserve gut health

January 10, 2014
The bacterial communities that live in our intestines should not be considered freeloaders—they contribute substantially to our well-being in a number of ways, including assisting in the breakdown of otherwise indigestible ...

Research in aging fruit flies may explain roots of metabolic dysfunction in aging humans

October 15, 2013
Have you ever wondered why young children can eat bags of Halloween candy and feel fine the next day – compared to adults who experience all sorts of agony following the same junk food binge? Evolution and a gene called ...

Fatty acid produced by gut bacteria boosts the immune system

November 13, 2013
New research from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in Japan sheds light on the role of gut bacteria on the maturation of the immune system and provides evidence supporting the use of butyrate as therapy for ...

Research in fruit flies provides new insight into Barrett's esophagus

June 27, 2013
Research focused on the regulation of the adult stem cells that line the gastrointestinal tract of Drosophila suggests new models for the study of Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus, a risk factor for esophageal cancer, ...

Recommended for you

Fabric imbued with optical fibers helps fight skin diseases

February 23, 2018
A team of researchers with Texinov Medical Textiles in France has announced that their PHOS-ISTOS system, called the Fluxmedicare, is on track to be made commercially available later this year. The system consists of a piece ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

Breakthrough could lead to better drugs to tackle diabetes and obesity

February 22, 2018
Breakthrough research at Monash University has shown how different areas of major diabetes and obesity drug targets can be 'activated', guiding future drug development and better treatment of diseases.

Fertility breakthrough: New research could extend egg health with age

February 22, 2018
Women have been told for years that if they don't have children before their mid-30s, they may not be able to. But a new study from Princeton University's Coleen Murphy has identified a drug that extends egg viability in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.