Researchers at APC Microbiome in UCC have discovered the potential to reverse ageing in the brain. Dr Thomaz Bastiaanssen, Professor John Cryan, Dr Marcus Boehme and Katherine Guzzetta. Photo: Clare Keogh

UCC breakthrough could reverse brain ageing

How do you reverse age related deterioration in your brain? Well, according to new research the answer may be in your belly!

Research from APC Microbiome Ireland (APC) at UCC published on Tuesday introduces a new approach to reverse aspects of ageing-related deterioration in the brain and cognitive function through the microbes in the gut and has been described as a “game changer”.

Published in the leading international scientific journal Nature Aging, the research opens up new potential therapeutic avenues in the form of microbial-based interventions to slow down brain ageing and associated cognitive problems.

This could be key as our population is ageing, and new strategies to maintain healthy brain function need to be developed.

The work was carried out by researchers in the Brain-Gut-Microbiota lab in APC led by Prof. John F Cryan, Vice President for Research & Innovation, UCC as well as a Principal Investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland an SFI Research Centre, based in in UCC and Teagasc Moorepark.

There is a growing appreciation of the importance of the microbes in the gut on all aspects of physiology and medicine. In this latest mouse study, the authors show that by transplanting microbes from young into old animals they could rejuvenate aspects of brain and immune function.

Prof. Cryan said: “Previous research published by the APC and other groups internationally has shown that the gut microbiome plays a key role in ageing and the ageing process.

“This new research is a potential game changer as we have established that the microbiome can be harnessed to reverse age-related brain deterioration. We also see evidence of improved learning ability and cognitive function.”

He also cautioned: “It is still early days and much more work is needed to see how these findings could be translated in humans”.

APC Director Prof. Paul Ross added: “This research of Prof. Cryan and colleagues further demonstrates the importance of the gut microbiome in many aspects of health, and particularly across the brain/gut axis where brain functioning can be positively influenced. The study opens up possibilities in the future to modulate gut microbiota as a therapeutic target to influence brain health.”

The study was led by co-first authors Dr Marcus Boehme with PhD student Katherine E. Guzzetta, and Dr Thomaz Bastiaanssen.