“Zone in with Zon”—Meet Your Microbiome

Dr. Gerald Zon’s latest “Zone in with Zon” blog post, dated August 26, 2013, focuses on recent progress in elucidating the human microbiome, namely, the vast world of bacteria inhabiting the human body. He notes that approximately 100 trillion bacteria typically are living in or on the human body, particularly in the intestine, with some 10 bacteria for each cell in the body. Dr. Zon highlights key findings from the recently completed 5-year Human Microbiome Project. These included the conclustion that microbes contribute more genes for human survival than humans do, with bacterial protein-coding genes being 360 times more abundant than human genes. Dr. Zon also discusses the pros and cons of “fecal transplants,” a relatively new approach in which a healthy person’s fecal microbiota are transferred into a sick person’s gut. He also cites a 2011 Genome Biology publication by J. Gregory Caparaso et al. that offered, in effect, “moving pictures of the human microbiome,” covering two individuals at four body sites over 396 time points. Dr. Zon said he found the results of this study very surprising. He went on to discuss the human microbiome and hospital-acquired infections, the use of fecal metagenome profiling to identify women with type 2 diabetes, the global scope of the new “Earth Microbiome Project,” fungi and the mycobiome, and finally, the very recent issuance of a $2 million grant for the study of how bacteria that are beneficial to humans help protect against diseases in the early phases of life, using high-throughput sequencing tools to find out more about the microbial communities that colonize the human body soon after birth. Dr. Zon is an eminent nucleic acid chemist and Director of Business Development at TriLink BioTechnologies in San Diego, California. [Zon blog post]
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