US researchers have for the first time completed the analysis of the genes of a community of human microbes, which will have far-reaching implications for clinical diagnosis and treatment of many human diseases.
Gill, associate professor of oral biology in the UB School of Dental Medicine and a member of the Anti-Infectives and Bioconformatics Team in UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, 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 boundary in the field of genetic research called metagenomics.
“The human genome is an amalgam of human genes and the genes of our microbial ?selves?, without understanding the interactions between our human and microbial genomes, it is impossible to obtain a complete picture of our biology,? said Gill.
The human genome lacks some essential enzymes that break down the food we eat into energy essential for survival, this is the reason 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 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,? he said.
Although scientists have published metagenomic analyses of samples from other environments, including soil and the Sargasso Sea, this is the first publication of an analysis of human-residing organisms.
The findings of the study have provided new insights into the function of many of our human genes, new ways for defining our health, new ways for identifying impending or fully manifest diseases, plus new treatment strategies.