Sunday, 12 November 2017

Millions of new genes in human microbiome


A new study of the human microbiome has uncovered millions of previously unknown genes from microbial communities in the human gut, skin, mouth, and vaginal microbiome, allowing for new insights into the role these microbes play in human health and disease.

The study, from researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the University of California San Diego, triples the amount of data previously analyzed in this project, and is the largest human microbiome study ever.

The results are a significant jump in the amount of information available to scientists. This publication provides new insight into the changes in our microbiome over time and could lead to a greater understanding of the genetic differences that are unique to an individual's microbes.

This study is part of the National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome Project, launched in 2008 to identify and characterize human microbes, explore microbes' relationship to health and disease, and develop computational tools to analyze the microbes. The microbiome has been linked to various aspects of human health including the robustness of our immune system and our susceptibility to chronic illnesses such as Crohn's disease and cancer.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed an additional 1,635 new microbiome samples, for a total of 2,355 sampled from 265 people over time. The scientists used DNA sequence analysis tools to identify which organisms are present in various body sites, determine whether they change or stay relatively stable over time, and explore their function. This study also provides one of the largest profiles of non-bacterial members -- viruses and fungi -- of the microbiome. In addition, it unraveled some of the biochemical activity that allows microbes to play a role in human health.

See:

Jason Lloyd-Price, Anup Mahurkar, Gholamali Rahnavard, Jonathan Crabtree, Joshua Orvis, A. Brantley Hall, Arthur Brady, Heather H. Creasy, Carrie McCracken, Michelle G. Giglio, Daniel McDonald, Eric A. Franzosa, Rob Knight, Owen White, Curtis Huttenhower. Strains, functions and dynamics in the expanded Human Microbiome ProjectNature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature23889

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle