Tag Archives: fecal transplant

Poop transplant rejuvenates brain of old mice

Credit: The Jackson Laboratory.

It’s not just our body that breaks down with old age. Inevitably, the effects of aging hit the brain as well, affecting our cognitive abilities to remember and pay attention to things. However, just like a good skin routine can minimize wrinkles on the face, there are methods to stave off cognitive decline from aging. Besides keeping the mind sharp with intellectual activities like playing chess or reading ZME Science, one particularly outlandish method could prove to be transplanting fecal matter from younger individuals. This is not satire.

In a recent study published in the journal Nature Aging, neuroscientists at University College Cork in Ireland transplanted the poop of 3 to 4-month-old mice into the intestines of 19- to 20-month-old mice. The age difference is equivalent to that between 18-year-old and 70-year-old humans.

After some time, the transplanted fecal bacteria colonized the guts of the elderly rodents, growing and expanding until the microflora of the young and old mice resembled each other.

To see how the gut microbes may have affected the brain, the researchers placed the mice in a water maze, which challenges them to plan an escape route. Older mice that received a fecal transplant found the escape platform quicker and with greater odds of success than old mice with the same old poop. They also remembered the escape route just as well as younger mice.

John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork and lead author of the new study, claims that the results can be explained by the altered rejuvenated microbiome, with research over the past decade showing it plays a major role in brain function. Previously, Cryan’s team showed that introducing a specific strain of Lactobacillus bacteria into the guts of mice reduces levels of the stress hormone corticosterone and reduces anxiety and depression.

The effects of the poop transplant could also be seen in the brain’s physiology. When the researchers examined the brains of older mice they found that the hippocampus — a region of the brain associated with forming and storing memories — resembled that of young mice. Essentially, the fecal transplant helped reverse neurodegenerative effects in the brain.

“This study is really a kind of proof of concept. It’s the killer experiment,” Cryan told The Scientist. “If the microbiome is playing a causal role in brain aging, then we should be able to take the microbiome from young animals, give it to old animals and reverse or attenuate some of the effects of aging.”

The big takeaway is that the microbiome may be far more important for brain health than previously imagined, especially as we age. As a caveat, this study was conducted solely on male mice, and the results may not carry over to humans. But there are good reasons to believe they could. Previously, scientists found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who received a fecal transplant experienced a 45% reduction in core ASD symptoms (language, social interaction, and behavior).

Perhaps it is now time to conduct a study examining the cognitive effects of poop transplants in humans, too. Who’s up for it?

Fight fire with fire: toxic gut bacteria used against itself

Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that can cause numerous medical problems, including colitis or colon inflammation; in severe cases, it can actually be fatal. Now, doctors have tried a new approach in dealing with it – they tried not to eliminate it, but to replace it with its friendlier cousins.

Clostridium difficile bacteria sickens roughly a half million people in the United States each year.

C. difficile infection is at an all-time high in the US; there were almost 500,000 cases reported in 2011, 30,000 of which were fatal in less than a month after diagnosis. To make things even worse, the bacterium is the most common cause of health-care associated infection in hospitals, with elderly people and those on antibiotics at the highest risk. Obviously, we’re doing something wrong in dealing with this issue, so doctors are trying other approaches.

So the team at Loyola University Health System in Illinois tried “infecting” patients with spores of non-toxin-producing C. diff. The friendlier bacteria was expected to replace the more virulent version and ultimately drive it out – and it worked, most of the time. 69% of people who received this treatment showed the healthier bacteria took over the gut, with only 2% of them showing signs of potential re-infection.

Dr Dale Gerding, one of the researchers at Loyola University Health System said:

“C. difficile infections are the most common hospital-acquired infection that we have, it is a big problem. What we’re doing is establishing competition with the original, toxic strain. I’m excited about this and looking forward to a phase-three [larger] trial, we think it’ll go a long way to reduce C. diff recurrence.”

This treatment comes after another creative approach was trialled with reported success – poo transplant. In faecal transplant healthy gut microbes are transplanted to an infected person. Dr Simon Clarke, from the University of Reading, told the BBC:

“It is an interesting idea, it is a less grim version of a faecal transplant and a very interesting concept to block infection. They are still infected with bacteria, but they are a more friendly version. This paper established the proof of principle, but what they need to do is find out exactly how you can use it.”

All in all, there are good signs for this growing problem; doctors and researchers are quickly adapting, and if conventional treatment doesn’t work, they decided to try unconventional treatments. Be it healthy bacteria or faecal transplant… it seems to work.

Scientist gives himself Fecal Transplant from Hunter-Gatherer from Tanzania… to See how it Goes

A field researcher from America has transplanted fecal microbiome from a Tanzanian tribesman to his own gut. Why? Well… to see what happens, basically.

Fecal bacteria, magnified 10,000x Fecal transplant is increasingly accepted as a medical treatment for some diseases. Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley

Fecal bacteria, magnified 10,000x Fecal transplant is increasingly accepted as a medical treatment for some diseases. Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley

“AS THE SUN set over Lake Eyasi in Tanzania, nearly thirty minutes had passed since I had inserted a turkey baster into my bum and injected the feces of a Hadza man – a member of one of the last remaining hunter-gatherers tribes in the world – into the nether regions of my distal colon.”

It’s not every day you get the chance to read an essay which starts like this, isn’t it? Yet that’s exactly how Jeff Leach, the man behind this research, starts his story. He has been part of a team working in Tanzania and living side by side with the Hadza, a group of hunter gatherer people. The Hadza live now the same way their ancestors have for thousands or even tens of thousands of years; they are the last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa. What’s interesting is that the Hadza are not genetically related to any other people, and their language is unique.

The Hadza are also at the mercy of the local weather and climate. Leach’s team has collected numerous (over 2000) samples from humans, animals, and the environment in order to observe how the microbial communities in and around the Hadza change as a result of the weather patterns – especially the six month variation (dry season – wet season).

A Hadza hunting party. Image via The Telegraph

“[The question is] what a normal or healthy microbiome might have looked like before the niceties and medications of late whacked the crap out of our gut bugs in the so-called modern world,” Leach writes.

For this purpose, the Hadza are indeed ideal subjects. They are not stone-age or isolated people – they’ve had plenty of contact with other humans, but they still have the same diet and lifestyle they’ve had for millennia, and almost never use modern medication.

The microbiome in the colon is starting to receive more and more attention – and rightfully so. The health impact it has on our bodies is huge, and has been widely ignored in Western medicine, until recently. Eating “probiotics” and similar foods is a good step, but this just “scratches the surface”. Meanwhile, fecal transplant has been used more and more to treat various afflictions.

“Recent research suggests that use of antibiotics may be fundamentally altering our gut biomes for the worse, increasing rates of allergies, asthma and weight gain. In one recent lab study, introduction of genetically altered gut bacteria prevented mice from getting fat. In another, artificial sweetners altered gut microbes and contributed to obesity and other metabolic disorders in mice, and some correlation to the same effect was found in people”, Popular Science writes.

So understanding how our biome changed as a result of a modern lifestyle could have huge implications for future medicine… but is a fecal transplant really necessary? Leach and his team believe it will greatly accelerate the study. Their results are already interesting, but they want to find out as soon as possible if modern humans can survive with ancient fecal biome.

“On the original question of whether or not the gut microbiome composition of the Hadza changes between wet and dry seasons, our initial – though unpublished data – suggest yes. To our knowledge this is the first study in the world to document this pattern among rural and remote populations. Ecologically speaking, this suggests there may not be one steady state – or equilibrium – for the human gut. It’s moving target with multiple steady states.”, Leach writes further.

Another reason why he is doing this is to test his theory: that we have conducted a biome genocide, basically wiping out most of the bacteria that inhabits our gut. He wants to see what will happen when you get that biome back.

“Microbial extinction [is] something I believe we all suffer from in the western world and may be at the root of what’s making us sick.”

Is there truth to his theories? The fact that he would risk inserting a hunter-gatherer’s feces inside of him seems to indicate that at the very least, he’s very confident in his ideas. Personally, I think what he says makes a lot of sense. Most of what we are is actually bacteria or other foreign bodies – it seems extremely unlikely for those elements to not have any particular impact; wiping them out (as we are doing today, with modern drugs and the modern diet) likely has serious consequences. We’ll keep you posted on how the situation develops.

Source: (Re)Becoming Human: what happened the day I replaced 99% of the genes in my body with that of a hunter-gatherer, by Jeff Leach.