NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has officially launched its Human Microbiome Project, saying it will use $115 million over five years under the NIH RoadMap for Medical Research program to fund research into the colonies of microbes that inhabit the human body and discover how they effect human health and disease.
The NIH already has issued several grant announcements for investigators to develop early-stage informatics and hardware tools that will advance microbial science.
The NIH views the human microbiome as including the collective genomes of all of the bacteria, fungi, and other microbes living in the human body.
The program initially will sequence the genomes of 600 microbes, creating a total collection of 1,000 microbial genomes, creating a reference for investigators interested in understanding the trillions of microorganisms dwelling in humans.
"We now understand that there are more microbial cells than human cells in the human body,” said Alan Krensky, director of the NIH’s Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI), which oversees the Roadmap program. “The Human Microbiome Project offers an opportunity to transform our understanding of the relationships between microbes and humans in health and disease."
Samples for the project will be taken from five body regions including the digestive tract, mouth, skin, nose, and female urogenital tract, which may contain diverse microbial communities.
“Our goal is to discover what microbial communities exist in different parts of the human body and to explore how these communities change in the presence of health or disease,” said National Human Genome Research Institute Director Francis Collins, who also is serving as a co-chair of the Human Microbiome Project Implementation Group.