Science Daily — Nitric oxide, the versatile gas that helps increase blood flow, transmit nerve signals, and regulate immune function, appears to perform one more biological feat -- prolonging the life of an organism and fortifying it against environmental stress, according to a new study.
The study reveals that a roundworm called Caenorhabditis elegans, an animal widely used in laboratory studies of aging, lives significantly longer when fed bacteria capable of manufacturing nitric oxide. The tantalizing observation points to one of the mechanisms by which the microbiome, the trillions of microbial cells inhabiting our bodies, may play a vital role in our health.
Our own nitric oxide levels decrease as we get older, a decline that may contribute to normal aging, says Evgeny Nudler, PhD, the Julie Wilson Anderson Professor of Biochemistry at NYU Langone Medical Center, who led the new study. Supplemental bacteria, he speculates, might provide a healthy boost by supplying humans with some of the missing compound.
"In worms, we now know that bacteria can use nitric oxide not only to their own advantage but also to provide their host with a beneficial response, and the same thing could be true in a human gut," says Dr. Nudler. "It may well be the case that our commensal bacteria control some of our genes, at least in the gut, to protect those cells against stress and age-related decline." Commensal bacteria provide a benefit to the organisms they colonize. Keep on reading...