The Roadmap for the Human Microbiome Project
Happy Halloween! I know I am a bit early but I’ve got a great zoological marvel for you to enjoy in our “Can You Identify This Beautiful Creature?” segment. I think this one is an amazing ghoulish creature. What do you think? What is it? Where does it come from? A hint: it is not part of the microbiome (thank God!).
Thank you for letting me quote again the above part of the purpose statement from the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). When you think about it, really get into it, as we will, each of us is more than just our collection of human cells. We are a community of a variety of cells; microbial and human cells, surviving together. As Bruce Birren, co-director of the Genomic Sequencing and Analysis Program at HMP says,
Another way to grasp the power of the microbiome is to fathom the fact that the 100 trillion microbes in our gut genetically contribute in excess of 100,000 proteins—encoding genes—that may provide essential traits not encoded in our own genome, yet are required for normal development, physiology, immunology and nutrition. We will continue to explore this subject next week as it is very fundamental to our understanding the concept of De-Evolution, and the disruption of the inter-connectedness of life itself.
Needless to say, the human microbiome is incredibly important. The holistic community has recognized for a long time the importance of a healthy GI tract, but this is not anymore a conversation amongst ourselves, but rather, the focus of many scientists at the National Institute of Health, working to map out the microbiome—and illuminate the naturopathic/holistic practice of medicine: take care of the gut! What makes this so exciting is that along with their status comes the necessary money, power and evolving technologies to create and implement the needed research to make possible great strides in our understanding of the microbiome relevance in our health and disease.
The Human Microbiome Project (HMP)
The HMP goals are to:
In other words, the HMP mission is to generate new technologies that enable the comprehensive characterization of the human microbiota and analysis of its role in human health and disease. The areas of interest for microbiome analysis, within the human body, are the skin, the nasal cavity, the oral cavity, the gastrointestinal tract and the urogenital tract.
The first order of business is the complete sequencing of 1000 genomes to serve as reference genomes. These sequences will provide a benchmark against which further sequence data can be compared. There is a fundamental shift in the world of microbiology and that is the study of native microbial communities. Traditional microbiology has only been able to study isolated bacteria that can be cultured outside the body—focusing on the study of individual species as isolated units. However, relative to the human gut, most organisms cannot be successfully cultured outside their preferred habitat. This problem has been overcome by the advent of the analytical methods of metagenomics.
Metagenomics allows comprehensive examination of complete microbial communities harvested from their native habitat—for example, the gastrointestinal tract. Combining the sequenced genome information with the metagenomic analysis will enable us to identify the bacteria and to know the genetic capabilities. This will give us unprecedented information about the complexity of human microbiota communities.
The HIH Roadmap
The Human Microbiome Project is not a single project but an interdisciplinary effort under the NIH Roadmap of Medical Research. They state that to truly revolutionize medicine and improve human health, we need a more detailed understanding of the vast network of molecules that make up our cells and tissues, their interactions and their regulation. We must have a more precise knowledge of the combinations of molecular events leading to disease.
The Roadmap is a series of initiatives designed to pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH institute could tackle alone, but the agency as a whole can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research.
NIH and the NIH Director
HIH includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the US Department of Health and Human Sciences. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases.
The office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy at NIH, which includes the 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. Here is perhaps the most exciting part—the new Director of NIH Francis S. Collins MD/PhD.
Dr. Collins is the former head of the Human Genome Project, and is now responsible for setting a tone and policy of collaboration of research findings with scientists all over the world. There is much that I can say about this great man, but suffice it to say that it is very fortunate for all of us that he is the leader of this project. His book The Language of God (2006) is highly recommended!
So now we know a bit about the structure next week we will dive into the organisms to be researched.
There are many wonderful organisms that work within our microbiome to help us maintain health. Last week we focused on understanding the features and benefits of the American collection of pedigreed lactic acid bacteria we use in the four synbiotic formulas pictured on the right—see the discussion in the October 14th Newsletter on our website. This week we will focus on the three on the left—the Bulgarian collection of pedigreed lactic acid bacteria.
The Supernatant Synbiotic Formula as the name implies contains good bacteria (Bulgarian bacteria) and fiber (organic inulin—a soluble fiber from chicory root). Good bugs and fiber (food for the good bugs) is defined as a synbiotic product. The Supernatant part of the name refers to the freeze dried metabolites—the enzymes, peptides, lactic acid, bacterocins, biosurfactants—the metabolic byproducts produced by these good bugs. The supernatant is isolated and freeze dried and included in the product.
This product contains L. acidophillus, L. bulgaricus, L. helveticus, L. casei, S. thermophilus, B. longum and B. infantis—all Bulgarian strains, inulin and supernatant. There are 15 billion cfu per capsule. 60 capsules in a bottle.
How to use and remember: Think of the name—Supernatant Synbiotic Formula- powerful metabolites ready to act immediately upon consumption, good bugs and fiber—food for the good bugs—pretty easy.
We designed this product to protect against hospital generated infections, such as C. diff and MRSA. It took our Bulgarian scientists one year of bench scientific trials to develop this product, testing different strains for their effectiveness towards inhibiting C. diff and Staph aureus growth. This product also can be used very effectively everyday as a general probiotic.
Cranberry Pomegranate Synbiotic Formula contains three pedigreed Bulgarian lactic acid organisms— L. acidophilus, L. casei and B. longum, supernatant, organic cranberry extract, pomegranate extract, d-mannose and inulin. Each capsule contains a 15 billion cfu.
How to use and remember: Besides being an excellent general everyday probiotic the Cranberry Pomegranate Formula was designed to support the healthy functioning of the urinary tract and bladder.
The No. 7 Systemic Booster– is a powerful combination of therapeutic foods to boost our bodies systemically. We included cranberry and pomegranate extracts and whole fruit, Supernatant and its metabolites, plus whole tart cherry and whole pineapple. The No. 7 Systemic Booster also contain our patented fructo borate for bone health, Vitamin D3, Folate, carnatine and carnicine for energy and cellular longevity, the nucleotides of barley sprouts for lowering blood sugar and inulin for fiber (there is no gluten in this product). Each teaspoon provide 10 billion cfu and 4 grams of fiber.
How to use and remember: As the name implies the No. 7 Systemic Booster is designed to boost many of the body’s systems—the gastrointestinal (the bugs and the supernatant), the urogenital—the cranberry and pomegranate; the osteoskeletal-the fructoborate; the cardiovascular-the pomegranate, Vitamin D and Folate; the immunological system with the defensive support of the good bugs and the supernatant. As we age, all of our body’s systems loose their vitality and optimal functioning. The older one is—the more important No. 7 becomes for regular systemic support.
The Last Quiz Answer: This is a blood pheasant. This species’ name comes from the fact that the males have vivid red coloring on the feathers of their breast, throat and forehead. They live in the mountains of Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, northern Burma and the northwest areas of China. It is the state bird of the Indian state of Sikkim.