Older African Turquoise Killifish live longer after they’ve consumed the poop of younger fish, researchers have found. Still in the early stages, research by Max Planck from the Institute for Biology of Aging in Cologne, Germany shows that there may be some relationship between gut bacteria and the aging process. The gut bacteria of middle aged fish was replaced by using that of younger fish, with the results showing that the lifespan was increased by 41%.
A possible thought process with this investigation is that as the body ages, and the immune system weakens, the gut bacteria also weakens, thus leaving the body open to infections and diseases. The body fills with bacteria which is harmful instead of good.
Planck thinks that introducing good and younger bacteria into the gut will mean that the immune system will be strengthened and diseases kept at bay.
Research was carried out on the African Turquoise Killifish, which have a lifespan of between three and nine months. The reproductive age of this fish starts around three weeks, making them a good project to work on. Previous studies have shown that there is a link between old gut bacteria and ageing in some animals like mice.
The lead author of the study, Dr Dario Valenzano, has said that it is possible to tell the age of the fish by noting the state of the gut bacteria. As the study progressed, researchers transplanted some gut bacteria from a young fish of six weeks, into an older fish of ten weeks. The older fish were placed into tanks with the gut contents of the younger fish.
While the older fish do not actually eat the contents of the gut bacteria, it was noted that they did disturb it by prodding it, thereby releasing the microbes. It was interesting to see that the older fish who were part of the test went on to live for up to 41% longer than was expected.
Another interesting factor which came to light was that not only did the fish live longer, their behaviour patterns also appeared to be more like the younger fish than old fish. It was as if they had received a longer lease of life. They even looked younger than fish who had not taken part in the study.
Dr Heinrich Jasper, a biologist at Buck Institute for Research on Ageing in California says that the whole process is very complicated, but needs to be seriously looked at. Jasper says that fecal transplants in humans are successful in treating Clostridium difficile in humans. This is a disease which causes fever, diarrhoea and vomiting.
“The challenge with all of these experiments is going to be to dissect the mechanism,” said Dr Heinrich Jasper.
“I expect it will be very complex.”
While it may be some time before the actual ageing process is reversed because of a human fecal transplant, research will go on, although it does not look as if it will be possible in the very near future.
Source: Daily Mail