Tool developed to help better understand microbiome

Scientists know that the gut microbiome is closely linked to human health, but little has been known about the roles of specific microorganisms. Now researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and colleagues have used a metatranscriptome – a list of what each of the gut bacteria do – as a new tool for examining causes and potential treatments for diseases. Problems with gut microbial organisms have been linked to inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions, and scientists hope that this new type of information will help explain at the molecular level why and how this occurs.

The findings were published January 15, 2018 in two studies in Nature Microbiology. See the abstracts here and here.

“This is the first large human gut metatranscriptomic survey,” Curtis Huttenhower, associate professor in computational biology at Harvard Chan School, said in a January 15, 2018 Gizmodo article. The researchers sequenced the fecal microbiomes of 308 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and found a high degree of personalization in which gut microbes perform what biochemical functions, and undergo a significant amount of change over time, varying from person to person.

Read the Gizmodo article: Scientists Develop Important Tool for Connecting Poo Bacteria to Health

Learn more

Our bugs, ourselves (Harvard Public Health magazine)

‘Bugs’ on the subway: Monitoring the microbial environment to improve public health (Harvard Chan School news)

Personal microbiomes shown to contain unique ‘fingerprints’ (Harvard Chan School news)

The role of microbes in health and disease (Harvard Chan School news)

Human microbiome project outlines powerful new methods for cataloging and analyzing microbes that play role in health and disease (Harvard Chan School press release)