The initial phase of the Human Microbiome Project has come to an end — and with it, the mapping of the full community of microbes that inhabit all the various nooks and crannies of the healthy human body. The results of the exhaustive study will be published as a collection in PLoS, making their findings available to everyone.
The PLoS Human Microbiome Project Collection will provide a comprehensive baseline of the microbial diversity found in 18 different areas of the human body. This catalogue will include the reference genomes of thousands of host-associated microbial isolates - those wee beasties in-and-around your body that don't cause you any harm, but are an indelible part of your larger biological make-up. In fact, our health is quite dependent on many of these microbes, who work with us in a symbiotic relationship.
And not surprisingly, the PLos Collection is massive: 3.5 terabases of metagenomic sequences, assemblies, and metabolic reconstructions, and a catalogue of over 5 million different microbial genes. Wow.
The healthy adult body contains 10 times as many microbial cells and human cells, including bacteria, archaea, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes. When you think about it, we're practically made out of microbes.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund, the Human Microbiome Project also looked into the relationships between the microbes and us humans to get a better sense of how these interactions correspond to our health. The scientists involved in the project investigated how specific microbial communities differ in relation to a number of specific conditions, a list that included:
- Crohn's disease
- Ulcerative colitis and esophageal adenocarcinoma
- The skin microbiome and psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis and immunodeficiency
- Urogenital microbiome and reproductive and sexual history, circumcision, and a number of Childhood disorders, including pediatric abdominal pain and intestinal inflammation, and neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis
You can check out the entire Human Microbiome Collection here.
Image via Shutterstock/qcontrol.