Microscopic research into the human body has shown that each of us has trillions of microbes living within and on the outside of our bodies.
The roughly four million genes represented by this community of human-associated microbes is collectively referred to as the microbiome. Until recently, the microbiome has remained largely unresearched and, as a result, the influence of these microbes on human development, metabolism, physiology, nutrition, immune response and susceptibility to infection are almost completely unknown.
However, today, understanding the human microbiome is one of the most popular focuses of scientific research. In 2008, the National Institutes for Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was established, an initiative that encourages collaboration and contribution from researchers interested in exploring the human microbiome. The aim of the project is to enable detailed characterization of the human microbiota and to explore the roles these microbes play in both health and disease states.
It is hoped that the data generated by the project will provide a valuable resource for anyone in the global scientific community who is interested in investigating, understanding and improving human health in the context of the microbiome. Microbial communities will be characterized at various body sites and correlations between changes in these communities and human health will be investigated.
Some highlights of the activities HMP researchers have recently been engaging in are described below.
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