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The human microbiome's role in life's processes

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The human microbiome, the collection of trillions of microbes living in and on the human body, is not random, and scientists believe that it plays a role in many basic life processes. As science continues to explore and better understand the role of the human microbiome. A new report from the American Academy of Microbiology addresses some of the most common questions about this growing area of research. You can check out the latest report, "FAQ: Human Microbiome, January 2014." from the American Society for Microbiology site. View/Download this Report.

A new report answers questions about the human microbiome and its role in health and obesity

The human microbiome, the collection of trillions of microbes living in and on the human body, is not random, and scientists believe that it plays a role in many basic life processes. As science continues to explore and better understand the role of the human microbiome. A new report from the American Academy of Microbiology addresses some of the most common questions about this growing area of research.

The report, entitled FAQ: Human Microbiome is based on the deliberations of 13 of the nation's leading experts who met to develop clear answers to frequently asked questions regarding the human microbiome and its role in human health.

Some of the questions considered by the report are:

  • What is the human microbiome?
  • Where does our microbiome come from?
  • How big is the microbiome?
  • Where is the microbiome located, and what is it doing?
  • What is the relationship between the microbiome, health, and disease?

"Scientists are experiencing startling insights into the role that microorganisms play, not only in disease, but more importantly in our health and well-being," says Lita Proctor of the National Human Genome Research Institute, a member of the steering committee of the report, according to the January 9, 2014 news release, "Report answers questions about the human microbiome and its role in health, obesity." Proctor is also Program Director for the Human Microbiome Project, an 8-year undertaking by the National Institutes of Health to identify and characterize the microorganisms which are found in association with both healthy and diseased humans.

Researchers have long known that bacteria reside on and within the human body, but traditional microbiology has typically focused on the study of individual species as isolated, culturable units

Recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies and other molecular techniques have allowed for more comprehensive examination of these microbes as communities that have evolved intimate relationships with their hosts over millions of years. Scientists now recognize that the microbiome may be responsible for a broad variety of metabolic and developmental processes from food digestion to vitamin synthesis, and even brain function.

The report also includes sections highlighting the role of the microbiome in human conditions such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease, and offers some general tips on what can be done to maintain a healthy microbiome. "The American Academy of Microbiology has produced a creative and informative resource on the human microbiome for a wide audience which describes the beauty and complexity of the human microbiome, the insults we may be causing our microbiomes as a result of common practices in our modern societies, why we now need to include the microbiome when considering human health, and the future research directions for this emerging field which combines medicine, ecology and evolution," says Proctor in the news release.

Response to emerging issues

Human Microbiome is the latest offering in a series of reports designed to provide a rapid response to emerging issues or to highlight the role of microbes in daily life. Previous FAQ reports have covered topics like the role of microorganisms in cleaning up oil spills and the central role of yeast in the production of beer.

The American Academy of Microbiology is the honorific leadership group of the American Society for Microbiology. The mission of the Academy is to recognize scientific excellence, as well as foster knowledge and understanding in the microbiological sciences. A full list of Academy colloquia reports can be found at the American Society for Microbiology Index, where you can browse the various reports. For more information about the American Society for Microbiology, visit the society's website, ASM.org.

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