Gut microbiota and aging

This 2020 review explored the title subject:

“The human body contains 1013 human cells and 1014 commensal microbiota. Gut microbiota play vital roles in human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition.

Human lifespan was thought to be determined by the combined influence of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors including lifestyle-associated factors such as exercise or diet. The role of symbiotic microorganisms has been ignored.

Age-associated alterations in composition, diversity, and functional features of gut microbiota are closely correlated with an age-related decline in immune system functioning (immunosenescence) and low-grade chronic inflammation (inflammaging). Immunosenescence and inflammaging do not have a unidirectional relationship. They exist in a mutually maintained state where immunosenescence is induced by inflammaging and vice versa.

Immunosenescence changes result in both quantitative and qualitative modifications of specific cellular subpopulations such as T cells, macrophages and natural killer cells as opposed to a global deterioration of the immune system. Neutrophils and macrophages from aged hosts are less active with diminished phagocytosing capability.

Gut microbiota transform environmental signals and dietary molecules into signaling metabolites to communicate with different organs and tissues in the host, mediating inflammation. Gut microbiota modulations via dietary or probiotics are useful anti-inflammaging and immunosenescence interventions.

The presence of microbiomic clocks in the human body makes noninvasive, accurate lifespan prediction possible. Prior to occurrence of aging-related diseases [shown above], bidirectional interactions between the gut and extraenteric tissue will change.

Correction of accelerated aging-associated gut dysbiosis is beneficial, suggesting a link between aging and gut microbiota that provides a rationale for microbiota-targeted interventions against age-related diseases. However, it is still unclear whether gut microbiota alterations are the cause or consequence of aging, and when and how to modulate gut microbiota to have anti-aging effects remain to be determined.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2020.1867054 “Gut microbiota and aging” (not freely available; thanks to Dr. Zongxin Ling for providing a copy)


1. The “Stable phase” predecessor to this review’s subject deserved its own paper:

“After initial exposure and critical transitional windows within 3 years after birth, it is generally agreed that human gut microbiota develops into the typical adult structure and composition that is relatively stable in adults.

gut microbiota by age phenotype

However, the Human Microbiome Project revealed that various factors such as food modernization, vaccines, antibiotics, and taking extreme hygiene measures will reduce human exposure to microbial symbionts and led to shrinkage of the core microbiome, while the reduction in microbiome biodiversity can compromise the human immune system and predispose individuals to several modern diseases.”

2. I looked for the ten germ-free references in the “How germ-free animals help elucidate the mechanisms” section of The gut microbiome: its role in brain health in this review, but didn’t find them cited. Likewise, the five germ-free references in this review weren’t cited in that paper. Good to see a variety of relevant research.

There were a few overlapping research groups with this review’s “Gut-brain axis aging” section, although it covered only AD and PD research.

3. Inflammaging is well-documented, but is chronic inflammation a condition of chronological age?

A twenty-something today who ate highly-processed food all their life could have gut microbiota roughly equivalent to their great-great grandparents’ at advanced ages. Except their ancestors’ conditions may have been byproducts of “an unintended consequence of both developmental programmes and maintenance programmes.

Would gut microbiota be a measure of such a twenty-something’s biological age? Do we wait until they’re 60, and explain their conditions by demographics? What could they do to reset themself back to a chronological-age-appropriate phenotype?


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