Healthy gut microbiome may protect against aging

Viral diversity in the gut may be associated with a longer lifespan.


To understand why specific individuals reach the remarkable milestone of living to be 100 years old, researchers have turned their attention to an unexpected source: the bacteria residing in our intestines. These tiny microorganisms, collectively known as intestinal bacteria or gut microbiota, have been found to play a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. Recent studies suggest that the composition of these gut bacteria may hold the key to unraveling the mysteries behind longevity.

By delving into the intricate relationship between our gut microbiota and the aging process, scientists are beginning to uncover fascinating insights that could potentially revolutionize our understanding of longevity and pave the way for novel interventions to promote healthy aging.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research have embarked on a quest to unravel the secret behind individuals reaching the remarkable age of 100 without relying on external interventions. By studying a group of 176 healthy centenarians from Japan, the researchers have discovered that these individuals possess a distinct combination of intestinal bacteria and bacterial viruses. This unique microbial composition holds promising clues to understanding the factors contributing to longevity.

“We are always eager to discover why some people live extremely long lives. Previous research has shown that the intestinal bacteria of old Japanese citizens produce brand-new molecules that make them resistant to pathogenic – that is, disease-promoting – microorganisms. And if they better protected the intestines against infection, well, that is probably one of the things that cause them to live longer than others.” says Postdoc Joachim Johansen, the new study’s first author.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen has revealed that specific viruses found in the intestines can benefit intestinal flora and overall health. The study focused on 176 healthy Japanese centenarians and discovered a unique combination of intestinal bacteria and bacterial viruses in these individuals.

This diversity in bacterial and viral populations is typically associated with a healthy gut microbiome, which may offer better protection against age-related diseases. The researchers aim to engineer a microbiome that promotes longevity and healthy living by understanding the dynamics and interactions between bacteria and viruses. By determining the optimal balance of viruses and bacteria in centenarians, the study may also provide insights into increasing life expectancy for others.

The newfound understanding of intestinal bacteria can optimize these bacteria in the human body, offering protection against various diseases. The research team discovered that certain viruses visiting the bacteria could strengthen them, with the viruses in healthy Japanese centenarians containing genes that enhance bacterial function.

This enhanced transformation of specific molecules in the intestines can stabilize the gut microbiome and counteract inflammation. The researchers suggest that identifying beneficial bacteria and viruses and introducing them to individuals lacking them could expand the benefits to a larger population.

Although further research is necessary, the ability to modify the composition of intestinal bacteria is significant, as it allows for potential health improvements.

A recent study has revealed that understanding and optimizing the composition of intestinal bacteria in the human body can protect against diseases. Researchers found that certain viruses can strengthen bacteria, particularly in healthy Japanese centenarians, by enhancing their function and stabilizing the gut microbiome. This process helps counteract inflammation and promote a healthy lifespan.

The researchers propose the identification of beneficial bacteria and viruses, potentially introducing them to individuals lacking them, thereby extending the benefits to a broader population. While further research is needed, the ability to modify intestinal bacteria composition presents significant opportunities for improving overall health.

In conclusion, centenarians have a diverse gut virome that may affect their longevity. Centenarians’ diverse gut virome may help them live longer and healthier lives by keeping the gut microbiota healthy and balanced. More research is needed to confirm the findings of this study, but it provides promising evidence that the gut virome may play an important role in longevity.

Journal Reference:

  1. Johansen, J., Atarashi, K., Arai, Y., Hirose, N., et al. Centenarians have a diverse gut virome with the potential to modulate metabolism and promote a healthy lifespan. Nature Microbiology. DOI: 10.1038/s41564-023-01370-6
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