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How Do The Immune System & Microbiome Interact To Impact Aging?

immune system and microbiome

The relationship between the immune system and the microbiome has garnered significant attention in recent years due to its potential impact on aging. Research suggests that our microbiome, influenced by both the environment and our own immune system, plays a crucial role in immunosenescence, the decline of the immune system with age. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of this interaction is essential to grasp how changes in the microbiome can affect aging.

The Connection between the Immune System and the Microbiome

The interplay between the immune system and the microbiome (check out our microbiome series here) has become a major focus of research in recent years (Fuhler et al., 2020; La Fata et al., 2018; Miniet et al., 2021; Shi et al., 2017), as evidence continues to mount that this relationship plays a significant role in aging. A growing body of research suggests that the condition of our microbiome is not only influenced by our environment, but also by our own immune system (Shi et al., 2017). This two-way communication between these two systems has implications for how we age, with changes in microbiome composition potentially leading to immunosenescence, or an impairment of the immune system’s ability to respond to infectious threats.

Further Research and Potential Interventions

In order to further explore this interaction, there is a need for more research into the mechanisms underlying the connection between the immune system and the microbiome. A better understanding of the molecular pathways involved could help shed light on how changes in the microbiome can impact the aging process.

For example, a study recently published demonstrated that changes in the levels of certain metabolites, including short-chain fatty acids and bile acids, have a direct effect on the function of the immune system (Visekruna & Luu, 2021). The researchers found that when these metabolites were reduced, the system was less able to fight off infection, leading to increased risk of disease and accelerated aging. Interestingly, the effects of these metabolites were seen to be mediated by changes in the composition of the microbiome.

Further research is needed to understand how the interplay between the immune system and the microbiome affects aging. For example, developing probiotic treatments that can modify the microbiome to prevent age-related diseases may be possible. Additionally, it will be essential to understand how changes in the immune system can alter the microbiome and vice versa, so that interventions can be designed to keep both systems in balance for optimal health.

Harnessing the Immune System-Microbiome Interaction

Ultimately, the interplay between the immune system and the microbiome has implications for our aging process, and thus warrants further exploration. With more research into the molecular pathways involved, it may be possible to develop treatments that can positively influence the aging process and ultimately improve our quality of life.


  1. Fuhler G. M. (2020). The immune system and microbiome in pregnancy. Best practice & research. Clinical gastroenterology, 44-45, 101671.
  2. La Fata, G., Weber, P., & Mohajeri, M. H. (2018). Probiotics and the Gut Immune System: Indirect Regulation. Probiotics and antimicrobial proteins, 10(1), 11–21.
  3. Miniet, A. A., Grunwell, J. R., & Coopersmith, C. M. (2021). The microbiome and the immune system in critical illness. Current opinion in critical care, 27(2), 157–163.
  4. Shi, N., Li, N., Duan, X., & Niu, H. (2017). Interaction between the gut microbiome and mucosal immune system. Military Medical Research, 4, 14.
  5. Visekruna, A., & Luu, M. (2021). The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acids and Bile Acids in Intestinal and Liver Function, Inflammation, and Carcinogenesis. Frontiers in cell and developmental biology, 9, 703218.

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