A next-generation probiotic could promote healthy aging after positive results in worms, a new study shows.
Back in 1907, Elie Metchnikoff was intrigued the number of centenarians in parts of the Bulgarian population; he found out that villagers living in the Caucasus Mountains enjoyed a daily tipple of a fermented yoghurt drink and discovered that a Lactobacillus probiotic appeared to foster improved health and long life.
Longevity.Technology: Metchnikoff’s work inspired other scientists, including Japanese microbiologist Minoru Shirota; Shirota developed a new strain of “friendly bacteria” named Lactobacillus casei and turned his discovery into one of the first commercially-available probiotics, Yakult. Since then, fermented and probiotic foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, miso and kimchi, have risen in popularity, crowding the chiller aisle and prompting shoppers to take their gut health seriously, and 115 years after Metchnikoff’s discover, scientists have developed a probiotic that could make healthy aging as easy as opening the refrigerator.
The work on this next-generation probiotic took place at the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST) in Guwahati, India and was led by scientist Mojibur Khan and Professor Ashis Mukherjee, director of the institute, in collaboration with Professor M C Kalita of Gauhati University and research scholars Arun Kumar and Tulsi Joishy. In previous research, the team had examined bacteria of curds prepared using boiled milk and raw milk from dairy farms in Assam, India, and identified and isolated a potential probiotic bacterium.
This was taxonomically characterised as Lactobacillus plantarum strain JBC5, and the research team have tested its effects on our favourite longevity worm, Caenorhabditis elegans.
In a paper published in the journal Antioxidants, the researchers detail the following positive effects:
- The mean lifespan of C. elegans was enhanced by a whopping 27.81%; this longevity was accompanied with better aging-associated biomarkers, such as physical functions, fat and lipofuscin accumulation.
- The expression of antioxidative, thermo-tolerant and anti-pathogenic genes was upregulated.
- Gut integrity was improved.
- The learning and memory of worms trained on the probiotic was improved.
- The fat accumulation in the worms was reduced.
- The production of reactive oxygen species was reduced and mitochondrial function was improved. This had the result of reducing apoptosis in the worms .
Although nematodes and humans might seem rather different from each other, 83% (15,344 sequences) of the C. elegans proteome has human homologous genes . This means that the new probiotic might be able to delay the onset of age-related diseases such
as those linked to inflammation or a decline in cognitive functions, as well as being able to increase immunity in the elderly.
Having filed a patent, the team are now developing a yoghurt using this probiotic bacteria which they hope will deliver the same health benefits as demonstrated in C. elegans, as well as possibly having a positive effect on lifespan.
Commenting that aging is generally associated with a higher risk of age-related health issues, such as obesity, neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, autoimmune and inflammatory bowel diseases), Professor Mukherjee said the team was hoping for a swift route to commercialisation to that people could benefit as soon as possible .