Experts believe transplanting faecal matter into your gut will help to keep you young, and could be used as a therapy to revitalise our ageing bodies and brains.
The University of East Anglia, working with the University of Florence and the Quadram Institute, found poo planted in younger mice from older rodents altered their guts.
This in turn affected their spatial learning and memory, making them effectively “behave older”.
The research team now hope that by reversing the procedure they could one day use poop to combat old age among the elderly.
Dr David Vauzour, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Ageing is an inevitable process that starts immediately after birth and ultimately leads to physical health problems as well as a decline in psychological well-being and cognitive function.
“Research has shown that the aging process may be linked with age-related changes in our gut microbiota.
“Recently, the existence of two-way communication between the gut and the brain – known as the ‘gut-brain axis’ – has emerged as an important player in shaping aspects of behaviour and cognitive function.
“We wanted to see whether transferring gut microbes from older to younger mice could affect parts of the central nervous system associated with ageing.”
The research team performed faecal transplants from older adult mice to younger adult mice and then assessed the young adults for markers such as anxiety, exploratory behaviour and memory.
The team found significant differences in the young mice’s microbial profiles.
It showed impaired spatial learning and memory measured in a maze test.
Dr Vauzour said: “Our research shows that a faecal transplantation from an old donor to a young recipient causes an age-associated shift in the composition of gut microbiota.
“The procedure had an impact on the expression of proteins involved in key functions of the hippocampus – an important part of the brain that has a vital role in a variety of functions including memory, learning but also in spatial navigation and emotional behaviour and mood.
“In short, the young mice began to behave like older mice, in terms of their cognitive function.”
Prof Claudio Nicoletti, from the University of Florence, Italy, said: “While it remains to be seen whether transplantation from very young donors can restore cognitive function in aged recipients, the findings demonstrate that age-related shifts in the gut microbiome can alter components of the central nervous system.
Prof Arjan Narbad from the Quadram Institute. added: “Manipulating the microbiome is increasingly being seen as a way of improving or maintaining human health, and these results are an exciting indication of its potential for helping us age healthily.”
The research was led by a team at UEA and the University of Florence, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Milan, the Earlham Institute, University of Siena, the Quadram Institute, and Nottingham Trent University.
It was funded by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio, the University of Florence and the Medical Research Council.