US Scientists Call For Unified Microbiome Initiative

Posted: Oct 29 2015, 8:08am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 29 2015, 10:35pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

US Scientists Call for Unified Microbiome Initiative
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Researchers in Microbiology Plan to Initiate a Worldwide Microbiome Project.

Microbes have always inhabited the surface of the earth. They have been found virtually everywhere. In hot springs and even on the Antarctic Continent, you will find a few species of microbes. A thorough grasp of the earth’s microbiome or microbial genome might come in handy in future times.

Many issues faced by humanity from energy crises to infectious illnesses and crop growth failures can be solved via this crucial information once it is collated. In view of this, a large group of American scientists have set the goal of a Unified Microbiome Initiative (UMI).

Many people, all of them experts in their respective fields of endeavor, will gather at meetings and seminars to discuss ways of gathering and compiling the information regarding the global microbial ecosystems. The target is lofty indeed but as the saying goes “that one’s reach should exceed one’s grasp or what is a heaven for”.

It is all being spearheaded by the United States which remains the foremost country in matters of science and technology and yet the whole effort is global in its scope. Thus borders or boundaries will not be recognized in the quest for knowledge.

In two papers published on same day in the journals Science and Nature, a group of scientists are calling for a Unified Microbiome Initiative that would span national cross-institutional and cross-governmental agency support.

This group consists of 48 scientists from 50 institutions in the United States. This group is called the Unified Microbiome Initiative Consortium (UMIC) and it include Pamela Silver, Ph.D., a Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

"Microbes are everywhere. Therefore understanding microbiomes, whether they be the ones that live in and on our bodies or the ones in the environment, is essential to understanding life," said Silver, who in addition to being one of the faculty leaders on the Wyss Institute's Synthetic Biology platform, is also the Elliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a founding member of the Department of Systems Biology at HMS.

A united progressive drive will take place and biologists, chemists, geologists, mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists and clinical researchers will all play their part in the scheme of things. The original impetus came from three scientists hailing from Germany, China and the United States.

Various agencies and independent organizations from around the global village gave grants to and funded the strategy which is hoped to prove fruitful in the end. The study will benefit all the nations that comprise the world community. Scientists are only beginning to look into the matter of microbial activity as a possible avenue of future research.

"Understanding how [microbiomes] work might hold the key to advances as diverse as fighting antibiotic resistance and autoimmune diseases, reclaiming ravaged farmland, reducing fertilizer and pesticide use, and converting sunlight into useful chemicals," said Jeff F. Miller, Ph.D., Director of the California NanoSystems Institute and corresponding author of the Science paper.

"I'm interested in engineering microbes as a way to interrogate their behavior," said Silver. "The purpose of this unified initiative is to determine what are the big questions we have about the microbiome and what are the specific technologies we need in order to investigate those questions."

Rapid advances in genomic sequencing and genetic engineering in general have led to revolutionary changes in the very base of how we see the microscopic world. There used to be only 35 major bacterial kinds. But the latest methods of breeding bacteria have led to the number proliferating all the way until now there are 1000 of them. The old obsolete knowledge is being binned while new fresh information is making the earth a virtual heaven for human beings.

Myriad microbes provide services to humanity that we are oblivious of. They aid in a number of processes having to do with our biology. Even companies such as Monsanto are investing heavily in this sector since the info they will reap as a result is simply too good to be allowed to slip through the fingers. Bacteria and microbes have unfortunately received a bad reputation among laymen as infectious and deadly agents of disease. But the good bacteria outweigh the bad bacteria many times over.

"Discovery of the importance of the existence and importance of the microbiome has provided a new frame of reference for our understanding of health and our environment," said Ingber, who in addition to directing the Wyss Institute is the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at HMS and Boston Children's Hospital and Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"A nation-wide coordinated effort to invest in understanding and leveraging microbiomes could open entirely new frontiers in biotechnology and medicine, and lead to solutions that would not be possible in any other way."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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