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APC and Suntory Wellness Scientists Reconsider Metchnikoff

by Dr Karen Scott, Postdoctoral Scientist, Brain-Gut-Microbiota Axis, APC Microbiome Institute


Over one hundred years ago, Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian scientist and Nobel laureate working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, hypothesised that the cognitive and physical effects of ageing could be delayed by targeting the gut. He proposed that lactic acid bacteria, which are found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt, could promote healthy ageing. Although it did not gain much traction in the intervening century, research over the last decade supports a role for the gut, and in particularl the microbiome, in mediating health, including that of the brain. To this end, we have just published a paper in Brain, Behavior  and Immunity, the journal of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society.  This research, which supports Metchnikoff’s theory, was led by me with Professors John Cryan, Ted Dinan and Catherine Stanton in collaboration with Dr. Masa Ida, a visiting scientist from Suntory Wellness, in Japan.

We found that aged mice, which displayed impaired cognitive, social and anxiety-like behaviours when compared to their younger counterparts, had increased intestinal permeability where normal barrier function of the intestine was impaired leading to increases in markers of inflammation in the blood. Intriguingly, we also found that the microbiota of the aged mice was significantly different from the young adult mice.  Aged mice had increases in bacteria that have previously been associated with inflammation and neurodegenerative diseases.  Interestingly, one of these families of bacteria, called Porphyromonadaceae, was directly correlated with the anxiety-like behaviours that were observed; when the level of Porphyromonadaceae increased, so did anxiety-like behaviours.

These findings suggest that the microbiota may be mediating some of the negative behaviours accompany ageing, and, as Metchnikoff argued over a century ago, that the gut microbiome may be an important target for treating or preventing some of the symptoms associated with unhealthy ageing.


Scott KA, Ida M, Peterson VL, Prenderville JA, Moloney GM, Izumo T, Murphy K, Murphy A, Ross RP, Stanton C, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. (2017) Revisiting Metchnikoff: Age-related Alterations in Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in the MouseBrain Behav Immun. 2017 Feb 4. pii: S0889-1591(17)30034-X. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2017.02.004. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 28179108

Photo:  Front row (left to right): Toshihiro Maekawa, Masayuki Ida,  Hiroshi Shibata (Managing Director, Member of the Board), Takayuki Izumo (General Manager), and Hideyuki Arie, all Suntory Wellness Limited, Institute For Health Care Science.  Standing: Catherine Stanton, Ted Dinan, Paul Ross, John Cryan & Karen Scott, all APC Microbiome Institute