University Post
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Putting your bugs to work - they might heal your diseases

What if all efforts to become as sterile as possible are useless and not so beneficial after all?

You are a whole ecosystem for a great number of microorganisms from viruses, to bacteria and fungi. Knowing which bugs live on you could help improve your treatment of certain diseases in the future.

This is according to Dr. Barbara Methé at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) for genomics who is trying to find out which microorganisms are living on us and how we can use this information. She introduced Thursday the Human Microbiome Project during the ”PLEN talks seminar” at the University of Copenhagen’ s (UCPH) Faculty of Science.

The project consists of simply taking samples from different body parts of adults and finding out which microorganisms live in them by sequencing the sample. After sequencing you will have an idea of the ‘population’ or biome of microorganisms that colonize you.

Microbial fingerprint

By now, her findings indicate that there is no difference among the bugs that grow on the skin behind your left ear compared with the ones from your right ear. However, these microorganisms are different from the ones that grow on your elbow skin.

Moreover, the microorganisms that grow on one person are different from another’s, therefore, in principle one could use them as a ‘microbial fingerprint’ to identify a specific individual.

Why should we care about what grows on us? Barbara Methé explains that the most ambitios part of the project is actually finding how the microbiomes differ among healthy individuals and sick patients.

Might improve treatment

If there is a striking difference in the microbiome population from healthy to sick individuals, she hopes to improve the treatment by transplanting the microbiome of healthy individuals to the sick ones.

Methé is also working on a side project in which they trace changes in astronauts’ microbiomes she explains to the University Post.

“We are looking at stool samples of astronauts at different time points and by know it seems like bacteria can survive in zero gravity. Who knows, maybe bacteria traveled through space and this is how life was originated on Earth?,” she says.

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