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Are Gut Bacteria The Key To Healthy Aging?

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Multiple studies suggest a relationship between the intestinal microbiome and a wide variety of psychiatric, neurodegenerative, and metabolic diseases.

The new advances in medicine have allowed prolonging human life expectancy, which is easily noticeable when observing the accelerated aging of the world population, mainly in developed countries. The United Nations estimates that the number of people over 60 years of age increases at a rate of about 3 percent a year.

The most recent statistics show that there are approximately 960 million people, over 60 years of age in the world. By 2050 it is estimated that these figures will double.

Aging is accompanied by a variety of diseases that decrease the quality of life enjoyed by people. One example is Alzheimer's disease, whose incidence will double by 2060 in the United States, according to a study by the Center for the Control and Prevention of Diseases (CDC).

As research on aging progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that a wide variety of molecular mechanisms regulates this natural process.

Marina Ezcurra, Ph.D. a professor of neuroscience in the Faculty of Biological and Chemical Sciences of the Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom devotes a large part of her research to studying the molecular mechanisms involved in aging.

Recently, Ezcurra and her team have used a worm called Caenorhabditis elegans to study gastrointestinal aging and the role of the microbiome in this process.

Her essay entitled, "The worm-bug: a combined model system to study host-microbiome interactions," Ezcurra presented C. elegans as a viable model to study gastrointestinal aging.

C. elegans has a life expectancy of only 2-3 weeks, but as it gets older, it develops several pathologies related to aging.

During the investigation, the worm was fed with approximately 4,000 mutant E. coli strains, each with a specific gene removed. 29 of the 4,000 mutant strains increased the life expectancy of the worms. Also, 12 of these mutant bacteria prevented tumor growth and the accumulation of beta-amyloid (a protein involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease).

Another successful study in C. elegans that demonstrated the effects of the microbiome on the aging process included a diabetes medication called metformin. Metformin is the most widely used medication for diabetes worldwide.

Ezcurra and her research team plan to develop a study in which they intend to colonize C. elegans with human bacterial strains to study the effects on aging and health.

"The next step for my research is to use C. elegans to reveal the role of the microbiome in human health," commented Ezcurra.

There are multiple studies that suggest a relationship between the intestinal microbiome and a wide variety of psychiatric, neurodegenerative, and metabolic diseases.

It seems to be clear that the diversity of the microbiome contributes to the health of the human being; however, it is necessary to clarify how we can improve our microbiome to prevent diseases related to aging.

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