Bacterial Products: The Latest Anti-Ageing Treatment?
As the average life expectancy of people in the UK continues to increase, more and more researchers have tried to decrease the effects of ageing1. People want to decrease their chances of frailty in later life, and so current trends have included doing complete re-hauls of diet, a greater focus on the gym and cosmetically even getting botox, but could the secret have been hiding within our bodies all this time?
Scientists at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta have discovered that commensal bacteria living within our bodies, such as Escherichia coli, are able to produce a chemical that can decrease the effects of ageing within mice and other organisms2. Dr. Kalman and his team found that the commensal bacteria could produce molecules known as indoles. When these indoles were tested on the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, the roundworm showed an increase in motility for a longer period and a greater resistance to stresses, whilst having little effect on the overall lifespan. There was also seen to be a change in gene expression, with patterns in aged animals reflecting that of the young.
Although these chemicals are not causing C. elegans and the mice to live any longer, they are instead increasing the ‘healthspan’; the extension of the period of youthfulness where the animals remain fit and healthy. It is not quite clear yet how the indoles produced by the E. coli are causing these effects, however it has been well established that the resident bacteria in your gut can have beneficial properties.
But why is this important? As the average life expectancy is expected to increase, there comes with it an increased frailty and a growing, potentially unsustainable burden on the healthcare economy3. These indoles that are produced by our resident microbiota could represent a new class of therapeutics that may reduce the effects of ageing and extend the healthspan in humans. This would provide huge benefits worldwide and would help the elderly remain more independent and mobile in their later years.
It would take a lot more time and research to potentially develop this drug. However, after years of searching for ways to reduce the physical effects of ageing, could the answer have been hiding within us this entire time?
Edited by Katrina Wesencraft
- For more information of the data and statistics of life expectancy visit https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/lifeexpectancies/datasets/nationallifetablesunitedkingdomreferencetables
- For the original paper from the scientists visit
- For more information on the trends in medical spending by age visit http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/23/4/176.full.html