Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Human Microbiome Project

Now I know that before I even get started here, nobody read the Oxygen Wars, nobody read Gould's Planet of the Bacteria - and nobody read Wizardology 101 so the noodle-baking I really want to put on you - is only going to come out half-baked - if it gets baked any at all.

Be that as it may, I will continue scattering bread crumbs in hopes that somebody attending to this peculiar web log will connect them all up and go AHHH!!!!!

At the end of the day - all it is - is a different angle of approach or perspective from which to view and consider the affairs in which it is broadly and uncritically believed and accepted that we are the agents. What pipsqueak arrogance leads us to conclude, believe, and act as if it were natural and theological law that we are the fundamental units of selection, the sine qua non and center of the implicate order of creation?

Gut Reaction;
For the first time, scientists have defined the collective genome of the human gut, or colon. Up to 100 trillion microbes, representing more than 1,000 species, make up a motley "microbiome" that allows humans to digest much of what we eat, including some vitamins, sugars, and fiber.

In a study published in the June 2 issue of Science, scientists at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and their colleagues describe and analyze the colon microbiome, which includes more than 60,000 genes--twice as many as found in the human genome. Some of these microbial genes code for enzymes that humans need to digest food, suggesting that bacteria in the colon co-evolved with their human host, to mutual benefit.

"The GI tract has the most abundant, diverse population of bacteria in the human body," remarks lead author Steven Gill, a molecular biologist formerly at TIGR and now at the State University of New York in Buffalo. "We're entirely dependent on this microbial population for our well-being. A shift within this population, often leading to the absence or presence of beneficial microbes, can trigger defects in metabolism and development of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease."
The Human Microbiome Project;
Within the body of a healthy adult, microbial cells are estimated to outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one. These communities, however, remain largely unstudied, leaving almost entirely unknown their influence upon human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition. To take advantage of recent technological advances and to develop new ones, the NIH Roadmap has initiated the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) with the mission of generating resources enabling comprehensive characterization of the human microbiota and analysis of its role in human health and disease.

Traditional microbiology has focused on the study of individual species as isolated units. However many, if not most, have never been successfully isolated as viable specimens for analysis, presumably because their growth is dependant upon a specific microenvironment that has not been, or cannot be, reproduced experimentally. Among those species that have been isolated, analyses of genetic makeup, gene expression patterns, and metabolic physiologies have rarely extended to inter-species interactions or microbe-host interactions. Advances in DNA sequencing technologies have created a new field of research, called metagenomics, allowing comprehensive examination of microbial communities, even those comprised of uncultivable organisms. Instead of examining the genome of an individual bacterial strain that has been grown in a laboratory, the metagenomic approach allows analysis of genetic material derived from complete microbial communities harvested from natural environments. In the HMP, this method will complement genetic analyses of known isolated strains, providing unprecedented information about the complexity of human microbial communities.

By leveraging both the metagenomic and traditional approach to genomic DNA sequencing, the Human Microbiome Project will lay the foundation for further studies of human-associated microbial communities.
Just a little food for thought...., are you thinking about it yet? (the picture accompanying this post is of a polished stromatolite in the shape of an egg)