Researchers from GE Global Research have been awarded a $538,000 human microbiome project from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop new technology that would allow for the study of individual cells growing inside and outside the body believed to have a significant impact on human health.
The human microbiome refers to the collection of microorganisms, which grow on and in a person's body and are thought to have an influence on their health. It is widely believed that these individual microbes (bacteria, yeast, viruses) hold a key to understanding more about a person's physiology and overall health. However, these cells are difficult to study because they cannot be grown as pure cultures, which is required to understand the contribution each has within the population of other microbes.
Dr. John Nelson, a molecular biologist in GE's Biosciences labs, and principal investigator on the human microbiome project, is leading a multi-disciplinary team of scientists to develop a method for amplifying the DNA from individual cells. From this method, multiple copies of DNA can be made that would enable genetic analysis of each individual cell.
Dr. Nelson said, "By understanding how individual cells in and outside of our body influence our health, we could unlock answers to which make us healthier and which make us ill. Before we can answer these questions, medical researchers need a proven method for studying these cells. That is what GE's project will focus on providing."
Research already has shown the potential link between microbes and various diseases and other health conditions. For example, Crohn's Disease, a digestive tract disorder, may be associated with harmful microbes. Other conditions being explored for possible links include: Psoriasis, sexually transmitted diseases, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.
The human body is made up of 50 trillion cells. In contrast, the number of bacteria, yeast and viruses on a person's skin or inside the body total 500 trillion cells; 10 times the number of cells making up an entire human being.