Many bacteria and other tiny organisms that live in your gut, which is often referred to as the microbiome or microflora, to not just help you digest food and fight diseases. As described in detail in a new study, they also provide a very accurate biological clock that shows your physical age — a fact which can open wide opportunities for studies of health and longevity.
The combination of machine learning and your stomach
The relationship between the biome of the gut and age was described by longevity researcher Alex Zhavoronkov and a group of his colleagues from Insilico Medicine, artificial intelligence startup, focused on discovery of drugs, development of biomarkers and the study of aging.
Relatively little is known about how our intestinal biome is transferred from one stage to another age, or about the connections between our age and the condition of our gut biomes. In ready to publish the work team describes as examined 3663 sample intestinal bacteria 1165 healthy people aged 20 to 90 years from Europe, Asia and North America. About a third of the samples were obtained in the age group 20-39 years, one third aged 40-59 years and one third aged 60-90 years.
Then in the case entered a deep learning algorithm that was trained on data from 1673 different microbial species from 90% of the samples. AI was commissioned to predict the age of the remaining 10% of participants solely based on their intestinal bacteria.
Accurate bacterial watch
The results, described as the first method of forecasting chronological age through the analysis of the intestinal microflora showed that the system is able to predict the age with a precision of up to four years, based on data on intestinal bacteria. In addition, the results show that 39 of the sampled species of microorganisms particularly important for the accurate prediction of age.
The study also showed that our intestinal microbiomes change over time. While the number of some microbes decreases with age, others seem to become more numerous. Age is not the only factor influencing the prevalence of different types of bacteria in the human digestive system. It is believed that what you eat, how you sleep and how physically active contributes mightily to this.
Science Mag quotes Zhavoronkova, which States that the study could lay the Foundation for the “hours of aging microbiome”, which could serve as a basis for future research on how the age of a person changes the intestine, and how medications, diet and alcohol consumption affect life expectancy.
Live longer, live better
The study of the impact of our microbiome on longevity adds another dimension to our understanding of how and why we age. Other areas of study include consideration of the length of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes, which are believed to play an important role in the aging process and our DNA.
The same can be said about the role of microbiomes in relation to diseases and conditions, including allergies, diabetes, some cancers and mental condition like depression. Researchers from Harvard even develop genetically engineered “phone” bacteria that can collect accurate information about the condition of the intestinal microbiome.
A positive side effect of many studies is that along with special efforts to collect data on microbiomes, they add new data — food for AI. When artificial intelligence will have new data, it will help us to better understand what is happening in our gut and what it means for our health.