Our gut microbiome, the colony of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi that lives in our gastrointestinal tracts, plays a key role in our mental and physical health.
Over recent decades, changes in our diets and lifestyles have led to dramatic changes to our gut microbiome composition that have been linked to an increased incidence of asthma, diabetes and digestive disorders.
Now, a team based at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) suggest we may be able to combat these changes by taking stool samples when are young and healthy and banking them for future reintroduction into our guts via a process known as autologous faecal microbiota transplant (FMT). This can be done via colonoscopy, enema or capsules taken orally – so-called ‘poop pills’.
“The idea of ‘rewilding’ the human microbiome has taken off in recent years and has been hotly debated from medical, ethical, and evolutionary perspectives,” said co-author Yang-Yu Liu, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard and an Associate Scientist in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH.
“It is still unknown if people in industrialised societies can gain some health benefit by restoring their microbiome to an ancestral state. In this paper, we proposed a way to rejuvenate the human gut microbiome.”
The concept of stool banking is similar to the banking of babies’ umbilical cord blood in case the stem cells contained within it are required for treating any diseases that may arise as the child grows up, Yang says.
However, there are many questions that need to be addressed in future studies before the practice could become widespread, such as issues with cultivation, storage and resuscitation, the researchers say.
“Autologous FMTs have the potential to treat autoimmune diseases like asthma, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, obesity, and even heart disease and aging,” said co-author Prof Scott T Weiss, of Harvard University and Associate Director of the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH.
“We hope this paper will prompt some long-term trials of autologous FMTs to prevent disease.”
The study was published in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine.
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