A2: Microbes in the News!

Article and link:

“The bacteria in your gut may reveal your true age”, by Emily Mullin from Sciencemag.org on Jan. 11th, 2019


—  Summary:  Researchers at Insilico Medicine  in Maryland are investigating what the microbiomes within our guts can tell us about our age and health. Using AI, correlations were made between reported ages and the frequencies of specific bacteria species within the gut. The algorithm formulated from these results was found to be accurate within four years of an individual’s true age.

—  Connections:  Microorganisms are everywhere, even within our bodies. Although some bacteria can be pathogenic, several species can be beneficial, like the ones in our colon. As mentioned in our textbook, “[t]he gut microbiome develops from birth, but it can change over time with the human host. The composition of the gut microbiome has major effects on GI function and human health”(2019).

—  Critical analysis:  A piece of information I found most fascinating in this article was the idea that the bacteria in our colon not only could provide details  on our age, but also our health. The prevalence or lack of certain bacteria could explain the rate at which our gut is aging, as well as “whether things like alcohol, antibiotics, probiotics, or diet have any effect on longevity” (Bullin, 2019).   Furthermore, the researchers  mentioned that association studies could show changes  in bacteria  frequencies  within the colon due to certain diseases, drugs, and other substances.

I believe that article was scientifically accurate. The source of the bacteria (I assume fecal matter) came from over 1,000 individuals around the world, but sampling biases could always be present. It would have been informative to provide a link to the scientific  paper to ensure the validity of sampling and statistical testing.

I also believe that the author did an excellent job introducing her readers to the subject with the first paragraph and then began describing the main idea with non-jargon language. The author was also able to connect this finding with the ideas from several others (i.e. biomarkers, biological aging estimators).

—  Question:  If one’s colon health and age can be predicted by the frequencies of certain bacteria using AI, could medications replenish the bacteria populations to prevent colon aging, which could allow aging individuals to absorb more nutrients from their diet and decrease their risks of ulcerative colitis and other GI diseases.

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