Microbiome Awareness Month! Live from Helsinki

Happy month of December to all of you from all of us at uBiome!

Here’s some hot news from a cold place:

Our Co-Founder and CEO, Dr. Jessica Richman, gave a talk in chilly Helsinki at the famous Slush conference, the world’s largest startup event. It’s like a stadium rock concert – but with entrepreneurs – and attracts 20,000 attendees and 1 million live stream viewers. Continue reading “Microbiome Awareness Month! Live from Helsinki”

The Microbiome Family

We have a special treat for you today. Guest blogger Dr. Jonathan Hausmann, pediatric and adult rheumatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has launched his own citizen scientist experiment – the microbiome family.

Join us on the exploration of his family’s changing microbiome with this yearlong blog series.

They say having a baby changes everything about you—your priorities, quality of sleep, happiness, relationships with your spouse, friends, and family—and, of course, your bank account balance. I want to find out if this also held true for my microbiome.

My wife and I are about to have our first baby. How will the baby change our microbiomes, and how will we shape hers?

I have been interested in the role microbes play in health and disease since college, when I studied evolutionary biology, the field that explains how our current traits evolved over hundreds of thousands of years as a result of our exposure to microbes and the environment.

Now, as a pediatric and adult rheumatologist, I really believe that better understanding our evolutionary past will help us treat or prevent some of the diseases that plague us today, a fact that is sometimes overlooked in modern medicine.

Most of the diseases I care for—including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus—have puzzled researchers for years, because no clear causes have been found. The study of bacteria and the microbiome may help unlock some of the mysteries of rheumatology, as it has done in the past with other mysterious rheumatic illnesses. For example, a bizarre epidemic of arthritis in Connecticut in the 1970s was eventually found to be due to a species of bacteria, now called Borrelia burgdorferi. We’ve found that viruses are involved in many cases of polyarteritis nodosa and cryoglobulinemic vasculitis. Also, recent research suggests that the oral bacteria P. gingivalis may contribute to rheumatoid arthritis, and that varicella zoster may be involved in giant cell arteritis.

But microbes do not always harm our health. In fact, our well-being could depend on them. An infant’s immune system needs to be exposed to microbes for normal immune function. Our modern aseptic environment—with baby bottle sterilizers and broad use of antibiotics in toothpaste, food, and even in toys—may have inadvertently led to the increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases, a theory known as the Hygiene Hypothesis.

Surprisingly, infants may well encounter microbes much earlier than we thought. We used to believe that fetuses grow in a sterile environment while in the womb, and that they first encounter bacteria as they pass through their mother’s birth canal. However, recent research suggests that mothers may transmit bacteria to their offspring while they are still in the womb, meaning that the newborn gut microbiome is not sterile.

To investigate what this microbiome looks like, I will collect a sample of our baby’s very first poop—which is known as meconium—then send it to uBiome for microbiome analysis. I also want to explore how our infant’s microbiome will change as she grows. Many factors are known to affect the infant microbiome, including method of delivery (vaginal birth vs. cesarean section), food (breast milk vs. formula), exposure to antibiotics, and the environment in which she is raised. I predict that my wife and I will also play a role in shaping the microbiome of our future daughter, and that she, too, will affect ours.

So for the next year, we will analyze our family’s microbiomes every month to see how they change. Will our baby’s microbiome begin to look like ours? Will our microbiomes begin to look like hers? How will our microbiomes compare to that of other uBiome users? Stay tuned to discover what happens!

Dr. Jonathan Hausmann is a pediatric and adult rheumatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In addition to studying the microbiome in rheumatic illnesses, Dr. Hausmann recently launched Feverprints, a crowdsourced research study that leverages the iPhone and Apple’s ResearchKit to explore body temperatures in health and disease. Read Dr. Hausmann’s blog at autoinflammatorydiseases.org

uBiome Announces Over $1 Million in Microbiome Grant Funding to Support National Microbiome Initiative

T6f0b65438f0e6c5f707a70ffef13f394c199723c_largehe White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is hosting leading experts in the microbiome field from both the public and private sectors to launch the National Microbiome Initiative at the White House today. To support the OSTP’s efforts, uBiome is announcing over $1 million in grant funding to both academic researchers and citizen scientists for microbiome sampling and related analysis.

For more information, click here.

Soylent + uBiome Berkeley Project

Guest post by: Ryan Hsu

soylentbacteria

I’m Ryan Hsu, an undergraduate studying Microbial Biology and Computer Science at UC

Berkeley and a student researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab where I study human gut
bacteria. For me personally, the human microbiome has been a perfect realization of my
interests in both microbiology and computer science.

I conduct research in the Arkin Laboratory under the mentorship of post-doc Ophelia Venturelli,
where we’ve been exploring the quantitative dynamics of human microbiome assemblies. We’re
trying to reverse engineer human microbiome communities by first breaking down larger
complex communities into small, more easily understood communities, then slowly adding
complexity and understanding how they change. We use next-generation sequencing, just like
uBiome, to measure the compositions of our communities. It’s a very rewarding combination of
both cell culturing experiments and computational biology work.

I’ve known about uBiome for while, and sometimes I think it sounds like science fiction. It’s
amazing that for under a hundred dollars, we can now sequence the community of bacteria
inside of a person. The ease of use of uBiome’s kits really brings this cutting edge technology to
individuals at home, but I also believe that its accessibility enables a completely new type of
undergraduate led health study.

Together, the exciting field of microbiome research and the uBiome platform create a really
great opportunity for undergraduates. I’ve started an undergraduate student organization at UC
Berkeley with Dylan McCormick, Kate Schreiner, and Mitchell Seitz jr. The organization,
Mycrobes, is dedicated to promoting and discussing current microbiome research, as well as
conducting an annual microbiome study using uBiome’s kits.

mycrobes

Our first project is to characterize the effect of Soylent consumption on microbiome
compositions. We are running a crowdfunding campaign at
www.experiment.com/soylentmicrobiome in order to fund this project. Feel free to check it out!
Backers of the campaign will receive regular updates on our progress, and the results as we get
them. We really appreciate your support and am very excited for everything we’ll find out
togethe with uBiome!