Human Microbiome-Links to Health and Disease - Dan Knights, University of Minnesota
The Human Microbiome – An Introduction to the Microbiome and Disease
Dan Knights, University of Minnesota
In this session we will discuss the human microbiome, the complex community of microorganisms living in and on the human body. Microbiome research is a rapidly growing field with connections to a wide variety of human diseases including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and infectious disease.
Our bodies are home to trillions of microbes, mostly living in our guts. The majority of these bacteria cannot be cultured easily, but with recent advances in DNA sequencing and bioinformatics we have we learned that these “microbiomes” living in us are extremely complex, and that they are not just hitching a ride. The gut microbiome is linked to so many aspects of our health that it has been likened to an additional organ in the human body, one whose complexity we are only just beginning to understand. These bacteria play essential roles in our health and development: they protect us from infection,aid our digestion, help extract and produce vitamins from our diets,and help train our immune systems. Consequently,a bad mixture of bugs,called dysbiosis,may increase risk of obesity, diabetes,cancer, Crohn’s disease, and many other diseases. Recent advances in human microbiome research have fundamentally changed our understanding of how the human body works. Microbiome-based diagnostics and therapeutics are beginning to revolutionize medical thinking and have the potential to enable an new treatments for a wide range of infectious and immunity-related diseases. However,each person harbors dozens or hundreds of different microbial species, and the microbiomes of any two people tend to have surprisingly little overlap in composition.This makes it challenging to identify mechanisms of interaction between our microbiomes and our immune systems and metabolism. This overview talk will be an introduction to microbiome research, explaining how the research is typically conducted,identifying several outstanding challenges, and highlighting several key open questions in the field.
Background Review Article:
Huttenhower C, Gevers D,Knight R, et al. Structure, Function and Diversity of the Healthy Human Microbiome. Nature 486,207–214 (2012).