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Gut changes may lead to ‘inflammaging’ process

Posted:  Thursday, May 28, 2015

Age ultimately takes a toll on bodily functions and systems. So how does age affect the gut? Researchers from Norwich Research Park found a number of age related changes in the gut: increased gut permeability, immune response and interleukin-6 secretion.

The study compared samples taken from healthy volunteers visiting Siena University Hospital and Norwich University Hospital for routine endoscopy. The results of the study were published in the journal Clinical Science.

The researchers found that aging triggered the immune system to release interleukin 6 (IL-6), which in turn triggered inflammation. Low grade inflammation was found to increase with age and the gut seemed to have an important role to play in it.

The researchers also found that increase in IL-6 levels changed the gut permeability to allow leakage of small soluble molecules. However, major structural changes in the gut were not observed. This, the researchers believe, could be the reason for age associated blunting of immune response and increased susceptibility to infections.

According to the researchers, controlling inflammation is necessary to keep conditions such as bowel cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease and even depression at bay. Strikingly, even the gut microflora change as we age and these bacteria interact with both the immune system as well as the gut barrier. The researchers are now working to understand what triggers the age related gut changes.

On a concluding note, the lead researcher said, “Understanding the triggers will help us better understand what caused the changes observed in this study, and find ways of preventing them. If the gut bacteria are implicated in this, it opens up the possibility that we can manipulate these through probiotics, as a way of keeping us healthy as we get older."

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