2015

The Human Microbiome: Slowly Getting There

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At this point in time, the study of the human microbiome is not a novelty. Quite a lot of time and money has gone into pursuing the promising field, hoping that collecting data from the trillions of microorganisms in and on our bodies will offer insights into how they affect health and diseases. While the microbiome has bene shown to heavily affect us—the food we eat, our immune system and infections, organ developments, even behavioral traits—our knowledge regarding the microbiome is still extremely limited. The goal of predicting an individual’s propensity for certain diseases (and ultimately preventing them) using the human microbiome seems more distant than not.

Part of the reason of why this research seems to be progressing slowly is the vast amount of data that needs to be processed and the time required to amass it. Specifically, months are required for bacteria collection (mainly from feces—relatively unappealing to the masses and probably another reason the field is not popular) and for gene sequencing. Biotech companies such as Biomiic have started working on how to process and present collected data at a much faster rate (as reported in the following article http://bostinno.streetwise.co/2015/10/05/havard-ilab-startup-microbiome-data-from-poop/)

Once data can be processed more powerfully, perhaps the field will advance rapidly. After all, even the world’s largest collaborative biological project—The Human Genome Project—was only possible because of remarkable progress in sequencing and computing technology.Reynaldi1Pic1

Another reason that often comes up is practicality. To what extent can we utilize microorganisms for therapeutics purposes? A lot of the bacteria seems impossible to be cultured, and even then, we don’t know how effective treatments with microbes are (though in certain cases they have been proven to be very succesful, as in the famous case of C. diff infections: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/291532.php ).

In any case, the study of the human microbiome is extremely valuable as our microbiome is an integral part of our lives. Perhaps once it gains more popularity and funding, more will be discovered regarding these organisms that call us their home.