NIH conference highlights advances, next steps in understanding the microbiome
This year marks the 10th and final year of the Human Microbiome Project, a program run by the NIH Common Fund that began in 2007 with the goal of exploring the ways in which microbial communities affect human development, physiology, immunity, brain development and behavior. The program also aimed to create a portal in which the program’s work can be stored and made accessible to researchers throughout the United States. This week, the NIH is hosting a 3-day workshop to highlight the developments achieved throughout the program’s 10-year history.
“Before the Human Microbiome Project, it was known that the body has more microbial cells than human cells, and microbes contain 100 times as many genes as humans do. Microbiomes also seem to influence a person’s health,” Mary Ellen Perry, PhD, a program leader in the Office of Strategic Coordination at the NIH, said during a presentation. “However, it wasn’t known what microbes make up a healthy microbiome and whether changes in the microbiome directly influence an individual’s health.”
The first phase of the Human Microbiome Project, or HMP, focused on cataloging the microbes that exist in a healthy human body and determining how alterations in the microbiome contribute to health and disease. This stage of the project resulted in “the world’s largest set of metagenomes from human subjects,” according to Perry. It also led to the creation of a central portal in which the research community can access data generated by the project.
Phase two of the project, which is known as the integrated Human Microbiome Project, or iHMP, was designed to characterize the functions of the microbes in the catalog, as well as interactions between the microbiome and the host. The datasets produced during this stage of the project “will allow the research community to gain insight into which properties of the host and microbiome, in combination, are key to human health and disease,” according to an abstract in the webcast’s program.
All data generated in both phases of the program will be made available through the Data Coordination Center, where researchers can also access protocols and other resources.
“The Human Microbiome Project Data Coordination Center played an important role in the success of the mission of the original HMP by providing a centralized location for researchers … to access HMP resources,” the researchers wrote. “The web portal is a collection of data and associated services which provide users with multiple types of information and a diverse set of tools with which to do analysis.”
“The Human Microbiome: Emerging Themes at the Horizon of the 21st Century” workshop is being broadcast live from the NIH web site through the end of the week. Reporters from several Healio.com publications, including internal medicine, gastroenterology and hematology/oncology, will be covering the conference to provide further insight into the multispecialty implications of the microbiome.
NIH. NIH integrative Human Microbiome Project. Available at: https://hmpdacc.org/ihmp/. Accessed August 16, 2017.
NIH. NIH launches Human Microbiome Project. Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-launches-human-microbiome-project. Accessed August 16, 2017.
NIH. NIH to host workshop on advances, future needs in human microbiome research. Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-host-workshop-advances-future-needs-human-microbiome-research. Accessed August 16, 2017.
NIH. The Human Microbiome: Emerging themes at the horizon of the 21st century (program book). Available at: https://commonfund.nih.gov/sites/default/files/The%20Human%20Microbiome%20Program%20Book-508.pdf. Accessed August 16, 2017.
NIH. The Human Microbiome: Emerging themes at the horizon of the 21st century. Available at: https://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp/meetings/emerging. Accessed August 16, 2017.
Disclosures: Healio Internal Medicine was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.