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A bacteria in the gut may could hold the key to slowing down the aging process.

Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have found bacterial genes and compounds that extend the life of and slow down the progression of tumors and the accumulation of amyloid-beta, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

“The scientific community is increasingly aware that our body's interactions with the millions of microbes in our bodies, the microbiome, can influence many of our functions, such as cognitive and metabolic activities and aging,” corresponding author Meng Wang, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor and the Huffington Center On Aging, said in a statement.

“In this work we investigated whether the genetic composition of the microbiome might also be important for longevity,” she added.

The researchers have identified the genes and compounds in C. elegans, a laboratory worm that is a transparent, simple organism that share essential characteristics with human biology.

The worm only lives two-to-three weeks and feeds on bacteria. However, it does progressively age to develop into an adult, while also reproducing.

“We think that C. elegans is a wonderful system in which to study the connection between bacterial genes and aging because we can very fine tune the genetics of microbes and test many genes in the worm in a relatively short time,” Wang said. “We fed C. elegans each individual mutant bacteria and then looked at the worms' life span.

“Of the nearly 4,000 bacterial genes we tested, 29, when deleted, increased the worms' lifespan. Twelve of these bacterial mutants also protected the worms from tumor growth and accumulation of amyloid-beta, a characteristic of Alzheimer's disease in humans.”

The researchers then discovered that some of the bacterial mutants increased longevity by acting on some of the worm’s known processes linked to aging. After providing purified colonic acid to the worms, the researchers found that they lived longer.

Based on these results the researchers believe it is possible to design preparations of bacteria or their compounds that could help slow down the aging process.

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