Chemical Compound That Gives Poop Its Stink Extends Healthy Lifespan in Animals

Indole, an organic chemical compound that’s found in our gut and contributes to the smell of poop, increases the healthy lifespan of worms, flies, and mice, according to new research. Scientists say this likely applies to humans as well, and that this stinky substance could eventually be used to delay age-related diseases.

New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that indole compounds, which are produced by bacteria in the gut, extends the healthy lifespan of a diverse set of organisms, including nematode worms, fruit flies, and mice. In tests, animals who were exposed to the compound remained free of age-related health complications over a greater fraction of healthy lifespan than those animals who weren’t exposed to the compound.

Importantly, indole didn’t extend an animal’s overall lifespan—rather, it extended so-called “healthspan,” or the length of time before age-related problems start to creep in. Scientists still need to figure out if indole does the same thing to humans, and how it is exactly that indole generates these observed health benefits. But the lead researcher of the new study, Daniel Kalman from Emory University in Atlanta, is cautiously optimistic that this compound can eventually be used to delay age-related diseases and frailty in humans. Dr. Kalman is a faculty member in the IMP and MMG programs.

Click here to view the full story in Gizmodo. This story was also featured in The Scientist.