Gut bacteria affect ageing

April 19, 2017
Fish also age: A five-week-old turquoise killifish is resplendent in vivid colours (above). At the age of twelve weeks, however, the colours have already begun to fade (below). Credit: D. R. Valenzano

It loses its pigments, its motor skills and mental faculties decline, it gets cancer – the turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri) struggles with the same signs of old age that affect many other living creatures. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne have studied the effect of intestinal microbiota on ageing and lifespan. Their results show that older animals remain active for longer and live longer if they receive the intestinal bacteria of younger members of the species. The results suggest that microorganisms in the gut affect the ageing of an organism.

The turquoise is just a few months old when physical decline sets in. The African fish undergoes all the developmental stages, from hatching to dying, at speed and thus represents the ideal model organism for ageing research. Its short lifespan is comparable to that of the nematode worm C.elegans and the fruit fly Drosophila, which the researchers also studied for signs of ageing. In contrast to both of these, the killifish is a vertebrate and thus more closely related to humans than insects and worms. It means that scientists can obtain information from this fish that would otherwise take years to obtain from other vertebrates.

The turquoise killifish's gut microbiota is similar in its diversity and composition to that of humans. The microorganisms in the intestines affect the absorption of food, the metabolism and the immune system. As is the case with humans, ageing affects the composition of the microbial community: while many different species of bacteria ensure a healthy gut when young, this diversity not only diminishes in old age but the existing bacteria also contain a larger proportion of pathogens.

As part of their study, scientists working with Dario Riccardo Valenzano at the Max Planck Institute in Cologne treated a number of 9.5-week-old killifish with antibiotics to clear out their intestinal flora. They then exposed these middle-aged animals to the intestinal contents of younger, 6-week-old killifish in an aquarium. When the animals 'taste' the particles swimming around them, they also inevitably absorb the in the faecal remains swimming in the water. In this way, the from the young fish are successfully 'transplanted' into the older organism and colonize its gut. The older fish that receive the young intestinal microbiota not only live considerably longer than fish that were exposed only to their own gut or to those of animals of the same age, these 'geriatric' killifish, aged 16 weeks, are also as agile as young .

It is still not clear how exactly the microbes affect longevity. "It is possible that an ageing immune system is less effective at protecting the microorganisms in the intestines, with the result that there is a higher prevalence of pathogens in older guts. The in a young organism could help to counter this and therefore support the immune system and prevent inflammation. This could lead to longer life expectancy and better health," says Valenzano.

Explore further: Changes in gut microbiota after unhealthy diet may protect from metabolic disease

More information: Regulation of Life Span by the Gut Microbiota in The Short-Lived African Turquoise Killifish. doi: doi.org/10.1101/120980 , biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/ea … 4/06/120980.full.pdf

Related Stories

Changes in gut microbiota after unhealthy diet may protect from metabolic disease

March 17, 2017
An unhealthy diet changes the composition of the gut flora and it is generally assumed that this maladaptation called "dysbiosis" triggers disease. A study by Matteo Serino and his colleagues at the Université Paul Sabatier ...

Recommended for you

How defeating THOR could bring a hammer down on cancer

December 14, 2017
It turns out Thor, the Norse god of thunder and the Marvel superhero, has special powers when it comes to cancer too.

Researchers track muscle stem cell dynamics in response to injury and aging

December 14, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) describes the biology behind why muscle stem cells respond differently to aging or injury. The findings, published in Cell Stem Cell, ...

'Human chronobiome' study informs timing of drug delivery, precision medicine approaches

December 13, 2017
Symptoms and efficacy of medications—and indeed, many aspects of the human body itself—vary by time of day. Physicians tell patients to take their statins at bedtime because the related liver enzymes are more active during ...

Time of day affects severity of autoimmune disease

December 12, 2017
Insights into how the body clock and time of day influence immune responses are revealed today in a study published in leading international journal Nature Communications. Understanding the effect of the interplay between ...

Estrogen discovery could shed new light on fertility problems

December 12, 2017
Estrogen produced in the brain is necessary for ovulation in monkeys, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who have upended the traditional understanding of the hormonal cascade that leads to release ...

3-D printed microfibers could provide structure for artificially grown body parts

December 12, 2017
Much as a frame provides structural support for a house and the chassis provides strength and shape for a car, a team of Penn State engineers believe they have a way to create the structural framework for growing living tissue ...

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.