Smarter mice might mean smarter men (and women)
By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Scientific Director, Essential Formulas
Results from research conducted at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore suggest that that probiotic bacteria may have beneficial effects on the aging process.
In this landmark study, scientists transplanted gut bacteria from old mice (24 months old) into a group of young (6 weeks old), germ-free mice. After eight weeks, the young mice were found to have increased growth in essential areas in the intestinal tract and increased production of neurons in the brain, which is known as neurogenesis.
The scientists were able to determine that the increased production of neurons in the brain was due to an increase in a specific postbiotic metabolite named butyrate. The increased level of butyrate was produced by the probiotic bacteria that were transplanted from the old mice.
Lead scientist Sven Pettersson stated, “We’ve found that microbes collected from an old mouse can support neural growth in a younger mouse. This fact is a surprising and fascinating observation, especially since we can mimic the neuro-stimulatory effect by using butyrate alone.”
Gut Microbes Also Impact the Digestive System
The scientific team also explored the effects of intestinal microbial transplants from old to young mice on the functions of the digestive system.
With age, the functionality of cells in the small intestine is reduced. One of the observable effects is a reduction in mucus production that makes intestinal cells more vulnerable to damage and cell death. However, increasing levels of butyrate help to improve the intestinal barrier function and reduce the risk of inflammation.
In a remarkable finding, the researchers found that mice receiving intestinal bacteria from old donor mice gained increases in length and width of the intestinal villi, which equates to a stronger, better functioning wall of the small intestine. Also, the small intestine and colon were found to be longer in the old mice than the young germ-free mice.
The discovery shows that gut microbes can compensate and support an aging body through positive stimulation by the postbiotic metabolite butyrate.
This research on aging is considered a milestone, and it builds on Prof Pettersson’s earlier studies. These studies demonstrated how transplantation of gut bacteria from healthy mice could restore muscle growth and function in germ-free mice with muscle atrophy, or loss of skeletal muscle mass.1
All very good news for mice… and very possibly men (and women)!