New Appreciation for Human Microbiomes (Ancient & Modern) Leads to Greater Understanding of Human Health

University of Oklahoma (OU) anthropologists are studying the ancient and modern human microbiomes and the roles they may play in human health and disease. By applying genomic and proteomic sequencing technologies to ancient human microbiomes, such as coprolites and dental calculus, as well as to contemporary microbiomes in traditional and industrialized societies, OU researchers are advancing the understanding of the evolutionary history of our microbial self and its impact on human health today. Christina Warinner (photo), Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Anthropology, OU College of Arts and Sciences, presented "The Evolution and Ecology of Our Microbial Self," during the American Association for the Advancement of Science panel on Evolutionary Biology Impacts on Medicine and Public Health, on Sunday, February 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. Dr. Warinner discussed how major events, such as the invention of agriculture and the advent of industrialization, have affected the human microbiome. "We don't have a complete picture of the microbiome," Dr. Warinner said. "OU research indicates human behavior over the past 2,000 years has impacted the gut microbiome. Microbial communities have become disturbed, but before we can improve our health, we have to understand our ancestral microbiome. We cannot make targeted or informed interventions until we know that. Ancient samples allow us to directly measure changes in the human microbiome at specific times and places in the past." Dr. Warinner and colleague, Cecil M. Lewis, Jr., Ph.D., co-direct OU's Laboratories of Molecular Anthropology and Microbiome Research.
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