The human body contains trillions of microorganisms, living together with human cells, usually in harmony. Because of their small size, however, microorganisms make up only about one to two percent of the bodys mass. Many microbes maintain our health, while others cause illness. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the role this astounding assortment of bacteria, fungi and other microbes play in human health and disease. To better understand these interactions, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced the official launch of the Human Microbiome Project. The human microbiome is the collective genomes of all microorganisms present in or on the human body.
The human microbiome is largely unexplored, said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. It is essential that we understand how microorganisms interact with the human body to affect health and disease. This project has the potential to transform the ways we understand human health and prevent, diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions.
Part of the NIHs Roadmap for Medical Research, the Human Microbiome Project will award a total of $115 million to researchers over the next five years. Initially, researchers will sequence 600 microbial genomes, completing a collection that will total some 1,000 microbial genomes and providing a resource for investigators interested in exploring the human microbiome. Other microbial genomes are being contributed to the collection by individual NIH institutes and internationally funded projects. A meeting between international partners was recently convened to discuss forming an international consortium.
Researchers will then use new, comprehensive laboratory technologies to characterize the microbial communities present in samples taken from healthy human volunteers, even for microbes that cannot be grown in the laboratory. The samples will be collected from five body regions known to be inhabited by microbial communities
|Contact: Geoff Spencer|
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute