Traditionally, microbiology has focused on the study of individual species of microorganisms as isolated units, making it difficult to inventory all of the microbes in and on the human body. Because microbial growth is dependent upon a specific natural environment, it often is difficult to recreate microbe-host interactions in the laboratory.
Recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies have accelerated a process called metagenomic sequencing. Instead of focusing on the genomes of individual microbes, metagenomic sequencing analyzes all of the DNA of all of the microbes found within a sample.
Much of the work being funded in the first round of the Human Microbiome Project is aimed at improving and refining the identification of microbes that constitute the microbiome. Computational tools will also be developed to optimize the assembly of sequencing data to infer the location and function of genes, as well to classify microbial species.
"The development of new tools and technologies is central to our ability to meet the goals of the Human Microbiome Project," said Alan Krensky, M.D., director of the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. "An exceptional amount of information will be generated by this project and we need robust technologies and analytical tools that are equal to the task."
The principal investigators who will develop new technologies and computational tools, their approximate funding levels and their areas of research are:
Eugene B. Chang, M.D., The University of Chicago Medical Center; $410,000 (2 years); Technologies for the Discovery of Novel Human Colonic Mucosal-Associated Micro
|Contact: Geoff Spencer|
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute