In-Depth Look at the Human Microbiome

Hundreds of samples from microbes living in the gut, skin, mouth, and vagina add to the human microbiome “fingerprint.” 

Sep 20, 2017
Jef Akst

FLICKR, MARTIN BEEKTracking 265 people’s various microbial communities, researchers have provided a wealth of data on microbiome variation across the body and over time. As part of the second phase of the Human Microbiome Project, the study, published today (September 20) in Nature, identified microbes—including viruses and fungi—present in more than 1,600 new samples from the gut, skin, mouth, and vagina, for a total of 2,355 samples from this population. The researchers also analyzed the microbes’ biochemical activity, which may influence human health.

“This study has given us the most detailed information to date about exactly which microbes and molecular processes help to maintain health in the human microbiome,” coauthor Curtis Huttenhower, a computational biologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, says in a press release.

See “Beyond the Gut

See “Viruses of the Human Body

See “The Mycobiome

Among the findings, the researchers found that the gut microbiome is highly personalized, with Bacteroides species in the gastrointestinal tract exhibiting strong inter-individual variation. In the vagina, too, the researchers saw consistent differences between individuals, both in terms of the species present and the biological pathways those species can perform. “Species abundances in the oral and skin microbiomes, meanwhile, exhibited greater time-varying dynamics and biological noise overall, and were less personalized,” the authors write in the paper.

“This new data really expands our appreciation for the fingerprint created by microorganisms that make up each human’s microbiome,” coauthor Owen White, a professor of epidemiology and public health and associate director at the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says in another press release.

There are still many questions that remain to be answered, the authors caution. First, the study’s findings pointed to the fact that many microbial genes have yet to be sequenced, and most of the variation the researchers measured in microbiome composition could not be explained by known factors. “These communities of organisms are tremendously complex,” coauthor Anup Mahurkar, the executive director of software engineering and information technology at IGS, says in a release. “In one sense, this study is a great advancement for the research community. On the other hand, it still just moves the needle. There will always be more we can learn.”

September 2018

The Muscle Issue

The dynamic tissue reveals its secrets


Sponsored Product Updates

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress, a Folsom, California based leading supplier of human biospecimens, announces the release of frozen Peripheral Blood Leukopaks. Leukopaks provide an enriched source of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with low granulocyte and red blood cells that can be used in a variety of downstream cell-based applications.

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

Vector Laboratories, a leader in the development and manufacture of labeling and detection reagents for biomedical research, introduces VECTASHIELD® Vibrance™ – antifade mounting media that delivers significant improvements to the immunofluorescence workflow.

Enabling Genomics-Guided Precision Medicine

Enabling Genomics-Guided Precision Medicine

Download this eBook from Qiagen to learn more about the promise of precision medicine and how QCITM Interpret can help deliver better care with better knowledge.

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Download this white paper from Bertin Technologies to learn how to extract and analyze lipid samples from various models!