Longevity and the microbiome - lessons from a non-senescent animal model

Thomas Bosch

Professor, Director of the interdisciplinary research center “Kiel Life Science” (KLS) at Kiel University,Germany

Bosch graduated from the University of Munich. His work on the non-senescent animal model Hydra contributed to the development of new paradigms in a range of topics in evolutionary developmental biology. His research uncovered that animal hosts are living closely intertwined with their microbiome in symbiotic communities forming a metaorganism. His lab also demonstrated that environmental factors such as an altered microbiome can disrupt the stem cell system and tissue homeostasis, triggering tumor formation.  Bosch has decoded the longevity gene and transcription factor FoxO as one of the evolutionarily conserved genes controlling stem cell aging and immune senescence.

Thomas Bosch | Kiel University

Longevity and the microbiome - lessons from a non-senescent animal model

As our understanding of the aging process progresses, so does the need for experimental animal models that allow a mechanistic understanding of the genetic and environmental factors involved. One such well-studied animal model is the freshwater polyp Hydra. Hydra are remarkable because they are non-senescent. Much of this non-senescence can be ascribed to a tissue consisting of stem cells with continuous self-renewal capacity. Another important fact is that Hydra’s ectodermal epithelial surface is densely colonized by a stable multispecies bacterial community. Here, we review key advances over the last decade that are deepening our understanding of the genetic and environmental factors contributing to Hydra’s non-senescent lifestyle. We conclude that continuously high activity of transcription factor FoxO contributes to continuous stem cell proliferation and supports robust colonization of epithelia with a stable microbiome. Understanding the complex process of aging requires a holistic view which includes the microbiome.