“Aging is an unavoidable process that begins immediately after birth and ultimately leads to physical health problems and a decline in mental well-being and cognitive function,” explains study author Dr. David Vauzour in a press release. Earlier research has already shown that the aging process can be related to age-related changes in the intestinal microbiota, the expert adds.
Faecal transplantation could help older people improve their cognitive functions, researchers from the University of East Anglia, the University of Florence and the Quadram Institute hope in light of their recent study results. The study was published in the English language journal “Microbiome”.
Transplantation of faeces could one day be used as a therapy to restore cognitive function in older people. Such a faecal transplant changes the intestinal microbion, which has effects on learning and memory.
What role does the intestinal-brain axis play?
Fitting memory in old age through faecal transplantation?
Recently, the existence of a two-way communication between the intestine and the brain (the so-called intestine-brain axis) has been identified as an important player in shaping aspects of behavior and cognitive function. The researchers therefore wanted to find out whether the transmission of intestinal microbes from older to younger mice could affect parts of the central nervous system that are associated with aging.
Effects of aging
The team performed fecal transplantation from older adult mice to younger adult mice and then examined the younger mice for markers such as anxiety, exploratory behavior or spatial learning and memory. After transplantation, the group found significant differences in the microbial profiles of the young mice.
While the younger animals did not show significant changes in markers for anxiety, exploratory behavior, or motor activity, they did show an impairment of spatial learning and memory, which was revealed in a labyrinth test.
These changes were accompanied by changes in the expression of proteins associated with synaptic plasticity and neurotransmission, as well as changes in cells in the hippocampal part of their brain responsible for learning and memory, the team reported.
The study shows that faecal transplantation from old animals to young mice causes an age-related change in the composition of the intestinal microbiota, the researchers explain.
The research group therefore hopes that by reversing the procedure, faecal transplantation could one day be used to combat cognitive decline in older people.
In summary, the young mice began to behave like older mice in terms of their cognitive function, the researchers explain. Although it remains to be seen whether transplantation from very young donors can restore cognitive function in aged recipients, the results show that age-related shifts in the intestinal microbiome can alter components of the central nervous system.
The method has had an impact on the expression of proteins involved in key functions of the hippocampus. This part of the brain plays an important role in a variety of functions such as memory, learning, spatial navigation, emotional behavior and mood, the research team added.
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