Older fish live longer if they consume microbes from the faecal matter of younger fish, according to a study by the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany.
Researchers transplanted gut microbes from six-week-old killifish into middle-aged, nine-and-a-half-week-old fish. They did this by treating the older fish with antibiotics, then putting them in water containing the gut contents of the younger fish.
The transplant increased the longevity of the recipients by 41 per cent. It also appeared to give them a more youthful vigour.
The anti-ageing mechanism is not entirely understood, but the researchers say it is possible that immune systems wear out with age, allowing harmful microbes to crowd out more beneficial bacteria, meaning that a transplant could act as a biological reset.
The study’s lead author, Dario Valenzano, told Nature it was too early to tell if faecal transplants in humans might be used to increase lifespan. ‘I wouldn’t go that far. This is really early evidence that this has a potential positive effect.
‘The challenge with all of these experiments is going to be to dissect the mechanism. I expect it will be very complex.’
The role which gut microbes may play in ageing is not well understood. This piece of research suggests that older African turquoise killifish lived longer and more vibrant lives after they consumed microbes from the faecal matter of younger fish. The authors therefore postulate that transplanting gut microbes from younger individuals into the gut of older individuals could have a role in their health and longevity, by virtue of changing gut bacteria and the achievement of a ‘young gut’ state.
Although this research is at the preprint stage, and has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, it will be fascinating to see if the authors’ observations can be translated into the sphere of human longevity.
Research score: 3/5