A microbiome is the microbial community associated with any particular environment, and includes a variety of microscopic life: bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists (protozoa & algae), and viruses. This microbial world has been invisible to us until relatively recently. New technologies in imaging, molecular biology, and genomics have given us a glimpse into the diversity of the microbial world and how microbial life interacts with other life and the environment.
The human microbiome has attracted much attention recently, and with good reason. Microbial cells in the human body outnumber our own cells 10 to 1 and drive processes as varied as digestion, immunity, development, behavior, and more and the genetic complexity of the human microbiome surpasses our own.
Understanding the human microbiome (and others), and making functional connections between the microbiome and the host, has only recently become possible, and has never been more important. A finely tuned system can easily be overlooked, but it will and only becomes obvious when it stops working properly. This is why disease has historically dominated the field of microbiology, while the multitude of beneficial impacts have gone unnoticed. Understanding the microbial side of ourselves may therefore be critically important for understanding human biology, including drug responses , susceptibility to infectious and chronic disease, and perhaps even behaviour.
A mechanistic understanding of microbiomes (including human) involves the study of complex communities and their many interactions with one another and their host/environment. This requires a close integration of diverse methodologies, from field biology and clinical studies, to conventional and germ-free animal models, advanced microscopy, single-cell manipulations, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and the high-level bioinformatics that always accompanies massive datasets generated by such studies.
Microbial cells in the human body outnumber our own cells 10 to 1 and drive processes as varied as digestion, immunity, development, behavior, and more.
Microbiome Insights is working closely with the PMI in understanding the association of an individual’s microbiome with a healthy and a disease state. Members of Microbiome Insights include world leading researchers with unique breadth of expertise and excellence in both the foundational knowledge and advanced methodology of microbiome research. that is unparalleled in Canada, or perhaps anywhere.
Microbiome Insights will help in our understanding microbiome characteristics in relation to families; if changes in the microbiome have a role in the influence increased frequency of diseases such as childhood-onset asthma, food allergies, type 1 diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and autism; if particular microbiome signatures predict risks for specific human cancers and other diseases that are associated with ageing; if the microbiome affects the pharmacology of medications; if knowledge of microbiomes will improve diagnostics for disease status and susceptibility. This will allow the development of true probiotics (and prebiotics) and narrow spectrum antibiotics.
Initiative Leads: Brett Finlay, William Mohn and Malcolm Kendall
Change in clinical practice: Understanding the role of the microbiome in human health and disease
Company Website: Microbiome Insights