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Consortium of scientists maps the human body's bacterial ecosystem
Date:6/13/2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CAJune 13, 2012Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes today are announcing their role in an unprecedented collaboration organized by the National Institutes of Health, which used groundbreaking methods to vastly improve our understanding of bacteria that reside in and on the human body.

In a series of coordinated scientific reports, some 200 members of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) Consortium from nearly 80 research institutions used advanced DNA-sequencing techniques to identify the thousands of microorganisms that live on humans. Researchers believe this will deepen our understanding of how microorganisms live in harmony with their human hosts.

"The vast array of microorganismswhich include many species of bacteria or virusesthat dwell in or on humans together comprise an ecosystem, or 'microbiome'," said Gladstone Associate Investigator Katherine Pollard, PhD, whose findingsavailable online in PLoS ONEfocused on microbes living in the human gut. "Alongside my fellow HMP researchers, we used cutting-edge data-analysis tools to find out not only how this microbiome maintains human health, but also how changes in this ecosystem could contribute to disease."

Historically, doctors studied microbes by isolating them from a single patient sample and growing them in a culture. This painstaking process identified only a few species at a time, and was often inaccurate. The HMP researchers instead purified all human and microbial DNA from each of the more than 5,000 samples collected from various body sites of 242 healthy U.S. volunteers, running them through advanced DNA sequencers. Using data-analysis tools recently developed by Gladstone researchers and their colleagues, consortium members then used specific DNA signatures to identify individual microbes. Focusing on this so-called "microbial signature" helped researchers such as Dr. Pollard pinpoint individual species that had never before been characterizedand
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Contact: Anne Holden
anne.holden@gladstone.ucsf.edu
415-734-2534
Gladstone Institutes
Source:Eurekalert

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