The gut microbiome is an integral component of the human body – almost like an organ. It is not an essential organ, like the liver or the heart, but we have found that proper functioning of the gut microbiome is necessary for long-term wellness and quality of life. Dozens of inflammatory conditions (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis) have been associated with the microbiome, in addition to several cancers and cognitive disorders. We mine large databases, like the Wellness 100K Project, to identify promising associations between microbial communities and human health. These associations serve as hypotheses for in vivo and ex vivo testing. Our goal is to establish causality for a subset of these associations, which will then allow for the translation of these insights into novel treatments for complex diseases. Ultimately, we want to develop ‘ecological therapeutics’ to treat complex conditions that emerge from many interacting factors and often require a personalized intervention (i.e. there will never be a single ‘pill’ that can be deployed to treat the disease). The microbiome is quickly becoming a new branch of medical science. Just as we all have our own unique genomes, we also have unique microbiomes. Understanding the composition of our unique gut communities will be crucial in the development of personalized, preventative, and predictive medicine.
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- BioRxiv Preprint http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/05/08/134031
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- Torres, P.J., Fletcher, E.M., Gibbons, S.M., Bouvet, M., Doran, K.S. and Kelley, S.T. 2015. Characterization of the salivary microbiome in patients with pancreatic cancer. PeerJ, 3, p.e1373.
- Vitaglione, P., Mennella, I., Ferracane, R., Rivellese, A.A., Giacco, R., Ercolini, D., Gibbons, S.M., La Storia, A., Gilbert, J.A., Jonnalagadda, S. and Thielecke, F. 2015. Whole-grain wheat consumption reduces inflammation in a randomized controlled trial on overweight and obese subjects with unhealthy dietary and lifestyle behaviors: role of polyphenols bound to cereal dietary fiber. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 101(2), pp.251-26
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