from the Atlantic Dermatological Conference in Baltimore
The body of the average human adult plays host to roughly zillions of microorganisms, some of which perform necessary tasks that our own bodies can’t. Exactly who are all of these hitchikers, where are they, and what are they doing? That’s exactly what NIH’s Human Microbiome Project is going to try to find out.
Claire Fraser-Liggett, Ph.D., — head of the newly created Institute of Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore — spoke about the project’s ambitious goals at the meeting sponsored by the Maryland Dermatologic Society. Key questions include whether individuals share a core human microbiome and whether changes in the human microbiome can be correlated with changes in human health. For now, HMP is targeting five highly colonized body areas: the gastrointestinal tract, the oral cavity, the nose and pharynx, the skin, and the vagina.
The project will require some new technologies and bioinformatic tools because no lab culturing will be performed. The idea is to see how the various microorganisms work together with the body; culturing would remove the microorganism from the system. Instead, researchers will rely on cloning and sequencing. The project has been slated for $100 million for the first 5 years.
In the meantime, remember that it’s not just about you any more…it’s about you AND your legions of microbes.