The Blue Microbiome project aims to gain insight on factors that contribute to longevity seen in “blue zones” - geographical areas whose inhabitants display exceptionally high longevity compared to that of their neighboring regions. No single factor has been found responsible for healthy ageing and longevity so far. Recently, scientists have started looking towards the gut microbiome as a possible factor contributing to longevity, as they can be shaped by a multitude of factors throughout the life-course and can act like a mirror to both the external environment and daily habits of an individual. Understanding the biological factors that influence healthy ageing can help scientists also understand how to best protect health as an individual begins to age.
The Center for Clinical Epidemiology Outcomes Research (CLEO) is conducting a pilot research study to examine if the oldest, healthiest people in the world share any specific features among their gut microbiota (the microorganisms living in their intestines). This study aims to obtain stool samples and sequence the gut microbiomes of residents of Ikaria, a small island in Greece that has been identified as one of the world’s blue zones. Additionally, questionnaires will help researchers collect information about subjects’ lifestyles and habits. Similarities between the microbiomes and lifestyle choices of the subjects may provide insight on the connection of healthy gut microbiomes and healthy ageing.
The study began in October 2020 with the collection of the first stool samples by the CLEO research team. As of June 2021, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA (UPenn) received the samples which are being analyzed. The first results are expected within 2022.