Scientists find the connection between gut health and aging

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In new research from The Wistar Institute, Associate Professor Mohamed Abdel-Mohsen, Ph.D., and his team, along with collaborators, have made a significant discovery linking viral damage to the gut with premature biological aging, particularly in individuals living with chronic HIV infection.

Their findings, published in the journal Microbiome shed light on the complex relationship between gut health and the aging process.

Accelerated biological aging refers to the phenomenon where an individual’s biological systems age faster than their chronological age, increasing their susceptibility to conditions typically associated with older age, such as cancers, heart diseases, and reduced vaccine effectiveness.

A key focus of Dr. Abdel-Mohsen’s research is understanding the mechanisms behind this accelerated aging and identifying ways to slow it down, thus improving overall health.

A leading factor in this accelerated aging process is believed to be the gut microbiome, specifically its potential to leak into the bloodstream. This “leaky gut” can trigger chronic inflammation by affecting the immune system, which is thought to hasten the aging process.

To explore this theory, the researchers analyzed samples from individuals living with chronic HIV infection—a condition known to potentially speed up biological aging—comparing them with samples from well-matched controls.

Their study marks a significant stride in understanding how chronic conditions influence aging, utilizing advanced methodologies to analyze samples from the colon, ileum, stool, and blood.

One of the study’s key revelations is the significant link between disrupted gut microbiomes, increased intestinal permeability, and accelerated aging.

Interestingly, the connection to accelerated aging was observed in the microbiomes of the colon and ileum but not in the fecal microbiome.

This distinction underscores the importance of where the microbiome is located in the body and the necessity of analyzing intestinal tissues for a precise understanding of how the microbiome influences aging.

The research team employed sophisticated techniques to measure biological age, including telomere length analysis and epigenetic clocks—such as the Hannum and Horvath clocks, which assess age based on patterns of DNA methylation, a process where methyl groups attach to DNA nucleotides.

These methods revealed a novel link between the microbiome and intestinal biological age in individuals with chronic HIV, offering unprecedented insights into how the condition affects aging at the microbiome level.

This exploration into the microbiome’s role in aging not only highlights specific bacteria and their by-products as potential accelerators of the aging process but also opens new paths for developing strategies to mitigate these effects.

Such interventions could significantly extend the period of good health for individuals living with chronic conditions.

Dr. Abdel-Mohsen emphasizes the need for further research to fully grasp the implications of these findings and to develop preventive strategies against intestinal dysbiosis (the imbalance of gut microbiota) and leakiness.

The ultimate goal is to understand how these strategies could influence biological age, marking the beginning of an exciting journey toward enhancing health and longevity through the lens of gut health and its impact on aging.

For more information about gut health, please see recent studies about the crucial link between diet, gut health, and the immune system and results showing that Low-gluten, high-fiber diets boost gut health and weight loss.

For more information about gut health, please see recent studies about Navigating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with diet and results showing that Mycoprotein in diet may reduce risk of bowel cancer and improve gut health.

The research findings can be found in Microbiome.

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