Mouse Study Points to Potential of Fecal Transplants to Improve Cognitive Function

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Conducting fecal microbial transplants from young mice to old mice, researchers at the University College Cork (UCC), Ireland were able to show a reversal of aging-associated differences and a slowing of cognitive impairments. This work introduces the idea that the microbiome could be used as an approach to reverse aspects of aging-related deterioration in the brain and cognitive function via the microbes in the gut.

This research is published in the journal Nature Aging, in the paper, “Microbiota from young mice counteracts selective age-associated behavioral deficits.

“Previous research published by the APC and other groups internationally has shown that the gut microbiome plays a key role in aging and the aging process,” noted John Cryan, Ph.D., professor and chair in the department of anatomy & neuroscience at UCC. This new research, he continued, is “a potential game changer, as we have established that the microbiome can be harnessed to reverse age-related brain deterioration. We also see evidence of improved learning ability and cognitive function.”

There is a growing appreciation of the importance of the microbes in the gut on all aspects of physiology and medicine. In this latest mouse study, the authors showed that by transplanting microbes from young into old animals they could rejuvenate aspects of brain and immune function.

More specifically, the researchers conducted fecal microbiota transplantation from either young (3–4 months) or old (19–20 months) donor mice into aged recipient mice (19–20 months). Transplant of a microbiota from young donors, they wrote, “reversed aging-associated differences in peripheral and brain immunity, as well as the hippocampal metabolome and transcriptome of aging recipient mice.”

In addition, the authors noted that young donor-derived microbiota “attenuated selective age-associated impairments in cognitive behavior when transplanted into an aged host.”

Cryan cautioned that “it is still early days and much more work is needed to see how these findings could be translated in humans.”

APC director Paul Ross, PhD, stated that, “This research of Prof. Cryan and colleagues further demonstrates the importance of the gut microbiome in many aspects of health, and particularly across the brain/gut axis where brain functioning can be positively influenced. The study opens up possibilities in the future to modulate gut microbiota as a therapeutic target to influence brain health.”

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