According to the study, intestinal bacteria affect the aging process

How gut bacteria are related to aging

In the past, various research projects have shown how great the influence of the intestinal flora on the human organism is. For this reason, the bacterial diversity of the hitherto little-noticed bowel is increasingly being researched. An international research team led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has researched that microorganisms living in the intestine can also significantly change the aging process.

All living organisms, including humans, coexist with a variety of microbial species that live in and on them. How important these can be for our physiology, metabolism and even our behavior has only become clear through scientific studies in the last two decades. The international research team has now discovered a connection with aging processes and hopes to be able to derive nutritional recommendations from them in order to slow them down.

Neurogenic and intestinal growth affected

In experiments on mice, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the transmission of intestinal bacteria from old mice (24 months old) to young, germ-free mice (six weeks old) had a significant influence on the process of so-called neurogenesis (formation of nerve cells) and on intestinal growth. The results were published in the scientific journal "Science Translational Medicine".

Enrichment of intestinal microbes with a positive effect

The research team led by Professor Sven Pettersson from NTU Singapore observed that the young, germ-free mice showed increased intestinal growth and increased production of neurons in the brain (neurogenesis) as early as eight weeks after the transmission of the intestinal bacteria from older mice. The increased neurogenesis is due to an accumulation of intestinal microbes that produce a certain short-chain fatty acid called butyrate.

What is butyrate?

According to the researchers, butyrate is formed by microbial fermentation of fiber in the lower digestive tract and "stimulates the production of a pro-longevity hormone called FGF21, which plays an important role in regulating the body's energy and metabolism." Butyrate production increases with age reduced in the body, however.

Transmission of the intestinal bacteria

"We found that microbes collected from an old mouse have the ability to support the neuronal growth of a younger mouse," explains Prof. Pettersson. In further experiments, the researchers were also able to produce the “neuro-stimulating effect” by directly administering butyrate to the young mice.

Possible medical applications

Now it has to be investigated whether butyrate can also contribute to the repair and reconstruction of nerve cells, such as after a stroke or if the spine is damaged. The researchers also want to investigate whether butyrate can also contribute to the weakening of cognitive decline in old age and the aging processes in general.

The digestive system also benefited

With regard to the function of the digestive system, the transplantation of the intestinal bacteria from old to young mice also had a remarkable effect. Normally, the viability of small intestine cells declines with age, their mucus production decreases and the intestinal cells become more susceptible to damage and cell death.

Increase in the length and width of the villi

However, the team found that mice that received microbes from the old donor showed an increase in the length and width of the villi - the wall of the small intestine. In addition, both the small and large intestines were longer in the old mice than in the young aseptic mice. The direct addition of butyrate also helps to better regulate the function of the intestinal barrier and to reduce the risk of inflammation.

Potential method against the negative effects of aging

Overall, the results show that the gut microbes can compensate for the aging processes in the body through positive stimulation, the researchers report. This suggests a new potential way to deal with the negative effects of aging by mimicking the enrichment and activation of butyrate.

Development of microbiome-related measures

"We can envision future human studies testing the ability of foods containing butyrate to support healthy aging and adult neurogenesis," emphasizes Prof. "The results bring our understanding of the relationship between the microbiome and its host during Aging ahead and creating the conditions for developing microbiome-related measures to promote healthy longevity, ”added Professor Brian Kennedy, director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the National University of Singapore. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore): Bacteria in the gut may alter aging process, finds NTU Singapore study (published November 14, 2019),
  • Sven Pettersson, et al .: Neurogenesis and prolongevity signaling in young germ-free mice transplanted with the gut microbiota of old mice; in Science Translational Medicine, Volume 11, Issue 518, November 2019,

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