A lot of bacteria and other tiny organisms,who live in your intestines, often called the microbiome or microflora, do not just help you digest food and fight disease. As described in detail in the new study, they also provide very accurate biological clocks that show your physical age — a fact that can open up broad opportunities for health and longevity research.
The combination of machine learning and your stomach
The relationship between intestinal biome and age describedlongevity researcher Alex Zhavoronkov and a group of his colleagues from Insilico Medicine, an artificial intelligence startup focused on drug discovery, biomarker development and aging research.
Relatively little is known about how ourintestinal biomes pass from one stage to another with age, or about the connections between our age and the state of our intestinal biomes. In the publication, the team describes how 3,663 samples of intestinal bacteria were examined by 1,165 healthy people aged 20 to 90 years from countries in Europe, Asia and North America. About a third of the samples were obtained in the age group of 20-39 years, a third - at the age of 40-59 years and a third - at the age of 60-90 years.
Then the deep learning algorithm came into play,which was trained on data on 1673 different microbial species from 90% of the samples. The AI was instructed to predict the age of the remaining 10% of participants solely on the basis of data on their intestinal bacteria.
Precise Bacterial Clock
Results described as first methodpredicting the chronological age of a person using an analysis of intestinal microflora, showed that the system is able to predict age with an accuracy of up to four years, based on data on intestinal bacteria. In addition, the results show that 39 of the analyzed microorganism species are particularly important for accurate age prediction.
The study also showed that our intestinalmicrobiomes change over time. While the number of some microbes declines with age, others seem to be becoming more numerous. Age is not the only factor influencing the prevalence of various types of bacteria in the human digestive system. It is believed that what you eat, how you sleep and how physically active, strongly contributes to this.
Science Mag quotes Zhavoronkov, whostates that the study could lay the foundation for "hours of aging microbiome", which could serve as a basis for future research on how a person's age changes the intestines, and how drugs, diet and alcohol consumption affect life expectancy.
Live longer live better
Studying the effect of our microbiome onlongevity adds another dimension to our understanding of how and why we age. Other research areas include telomere length, chromosome tips, which are thought to play an important role in the aging process and our DNA.
The same can be said about the role playedmicrobiomes for diseases and conditions, including allergies, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and psychological conditions like depression. Harvard scientists even develop genetically engineered “telephone” bacteria that can collect accurate information about the state of the intestinal microbiome.
The positive side effect of manyresearch is that along with special efforts to collect data on microbiomes, they add new data - food for AI. When artificial intelligence receives new data, it will help us better understand what is happening in our gut and what it means for our health.
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