Changes in Microbiota Dynamics with Age

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: School of Life Sciences


Globally, the human population is ageing. However, extensions in lifespan are not coupled to extensions in healthspan. This results in an increase in ill-health in old age and a reduction in quality of life, as well placing further pressure on already stretched public health systems.
The gut microbiota has been identified to be a key player in many different functions within the body: it has been implicated in the modulation of the immune and central nervous systems, the absorption and digestion of many nutrients, as well as in the production of beneficial bacterial metabolites. However, it has also been noted that the microbiota is altered with advancing age, demonstrating a reduction in diversity and production of beneficial metabolites. This is accompanied by an increase in opportunistic, pathogenic bacteria; a process termed 'dysbiosis', a state which has been implicated in numerous pathologies.
In multiple animal models, the transplant of the microbiota from young animals into older animals confers a lifespan extension, as well improved health benefits. Moreover, dietary intake is heavily implicated in the modulation of the gut microbial community, and in the case of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, is able to induce differential effects on life- and health-span dependent upon the specific bacteria consumed.
As such, there has been a recent interest in the maintenance of beneficial gut microbial populations with advancing age. However, the specific mechanisms underlying the link between dysbiosis and ageing are as yet unknown.
Due to the propensity for environmental or socioeconomic factors to impact health outcomes in humans, it is difficult to accurately dissect the interplay between lifespan and microbiota. Therefore, this project aims to study the dynamics behind the shift in microbiota in old age via the use of C.elegans as a model system; employing a multidisciplinary approach to characterise the host-microbiota relationship.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
2265148 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2023 Rhianne Naheed Kelleher