Scientists to study whether aging is impacted by changes in gut microbiome
Texas Biomed and UT-Austin researchers receive NIH grant to determine whether micriobiome interventions could turn back the clock on age-related health decline
San Antonio (December 17, 2020) – Texas Biomedical Research Institute Associate Professor Corinna Ross, PhD, is a principal investigator on a $3.38 million National Institutes of Health multi-investigator grant to study “microbiome-mediated therapies for aging and healthspan” in marmosets, which are small monkeys native to South America and are becoming increasingly more important in aging and infectious disease research. Dr. Ross is partnering with University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Kelly Reveles, PharmD, PhD.
The United Nations states in its global issues on aging that “according to data from World Population Prospects: the 2019 Revision, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65 (16%), up from one in 11 in 2019 (9%).” Aging is an underlying risk factor for numerous chronic and infectious diseases, so scientists continue to look for interventions that will allow older people to not simply live longer but lead healthier lives. Research indicates that the gut microbiome plays an integral role in the development of chronic diseases, such as obesity, frailty and cardiac issues.
“Preliminary data in previous research we have done showed that marmosets lose microbiome diversity as they age, but we don’t yet know if that correlates to lower health outcomes as they age,” explained Dr. Ross, who is an expert in marmosets and serves as Associate Director for Research at the Southwest National Primate Research Center. “A key component of this study is to perform fecal microbiome transplants from young marmosets to older marmosets to determine whether the transplant stabilizes aging in older marmosets.”
Marmosets are a unique animal model that provides researchers an opportunity to evaluate the relationship between changes in gut health and age-related health outcomes. This research will not only evaluate the impact of microbiome transplants but also evaluate the stability of microbial diversity and function in aging marmosets and the related changes in health.
“The focus of aging research has now shifted to treating aging as a systemic problem, and determining whether an increase in lifespan alters the ability for that individual to remain disease free,” explained Dr. Ross. “Microbial imbalance has been associated with a number of chronic and age-related disorders, but studying these imbalances in human populations is challenging due to variability in diet, exposure to pharmaceutical and differences in physical activity. Marmosets provide us a uniform model from which to evaluate the effects of changes to their microbiome.”
Texas Biomed is home to nearly 400 marmosets, making it the largest marmoset research population in the country, including the largest geriatric marmoset population, serving as a valuable resource to researchers worldwide aiming to study aging interventions.
The team of researchers on this study also includes Assistant Professor Katherine R. Amato from Northwestern University who is a biological anthropologist studying host-gut microbe interactions, Animal Scientist Michael Power with the Smithsonian Institution for expertise in digestion, nutrition and energy metabolism in marmosets, and Assistant Professor Benjamin Ridenhour with the University of Idaho an expert in microbial ecology, community ecology, bioinformatics, computational biology and genetics.
This grant is funded by award number R01AG065546 from the National Institute of Aging.