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March's Science on Tap Question

Blame it on your microbiome! Wait, I have a microbiome?
February 28, 2020
Different germs in the human intestines called microbiome - 3d illustration

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  • Stacy Baker
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The short answer is yes, you do. We all do! In fact, all living things have a microbiome. And what’s really incredible is that each of us has a microbiome that is uniquely our own. Your microbiome is a you-specific community of microbes that co-exists with you, impacts your immune system, influences conditions such as obesity and anxiety, and even alters your mood. As researchers are discovering, microbiomes are much more than just a bunch of germs catching a free ride. 

Increasingly, scientists are discovering that our microbiomes are essential and influential in ways previously unknown. Those on your skin may even help protect you from skin cancer. Given the crucial role microbiomes have in regulating the health and well-being of their host, it’s no wonder scientists are determined to discover exactly how much influence microbiomes exert, how malleable they are, and what happens when a microbiome’s living conditions change.  

For instance, what transformations occur in crop microbiomes when their environment experiences prolonged drought or increased rainfall? Further, what impact do those transformations have upon the consumers of those crops? To answer these questions, researchers around the globe are studying microbiomes and their hosts and carefully recording their data. However, sharing that data in a global, searchable database hasn’t been possible until very recently. 

At Los Alamos, Bin Hu and Patrick Chain of the Lab’s Biosecurity and Public Health Group are working with scientists from Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories to stand up the National Microbiome Data Collaborative (NMDC), a comprehensive and publicly available database that allows researchers to share and search for standardized microbiome data. Though still in its infancy, Hu and Chain believe the NMDC will soon present researchers a much broader picture of the microbial world we live in. 

More information on this collaborative may be found in this article in the Albuquerque Journal.