UB scientist publishes first human microbiome analysis

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Researchers have completed the first analysis of the genes of a community of human microbes, an accomplishment that has far-reaching implications for clinical diagnosis and treatment of many human diseases.

Results of the analysis, conducted by a team headed by UB microbiologist Steven R. Gill, Ph.D., appear in the June 2 edition of the journal Science.

Gill, who conducted the research while at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) with colleagues from TIGR, Stanford University and Washington University, analyzed the DNA of microbes in the human distal gut as a "community-of-the whole" -- the next frontier in the field of genetic research called metagenomics.

"The human genome is an amalgam of human genes and the genes of our microbial 'selves,'" said Gill. "Without understanding the interactions between our human and microbial genomes, it is impossible to obtain a complete picture of our biology.

The human genome lacks some essential enzymes that break down the food we eat into energy essential for survival, a situation which prompts Gill to note out that while bacteria could survive perfectly well without their human hosts, humans would be doomed without their bacterial partners.

"The ultimate goal of the work," he said, "is to develop tools for clinicians to use in treating disease. With this kind of knowledge, we can use biomarkers to identify the bacterial population of the individual. Clinicians then can adjust the population of bacteria to make that person well. Such an analysis also would determine which bacteria are resistant to which antibiotics, and help determine the proper drug to administer.

In the future, healthy individuals could undergo a metagenomic analysis of their gut to determine their immune status and susceptibility to certain diseases, Gill said.

Jeffrey I. Gordon, M.D., a major contributor to the research from the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University, noted th

Contact: Lois Baker
716-645-5000 x1417
University at Buffalo

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