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We All Have Our Bugs


It was several years ago that I first heard about a major study of the human microbiome — it was from Washington University's Jeff Gordon, presenting at a Marco Island conference some of the earliest genomics-based research into the microbial content of our bodies. At the time, many attendees were surprised to hear that microbial cells outnumber human cells 10 to one in the average human. Rarely have so many scientists been sent scrambling for hand sanitizer — but, it seems, they also scrambled to participate in the nascent microbiome field.

By 2007, NHGRI launched its large-scale Human Microbiome Project, which has so far issued grants to more than 50 PIs for various components of the effort. For our cover story this month, Ciara Curtin grabbed her antibiotics and dove into the world of infant guts, skin biomes, and more to report on the ongoing science and the findings already emerging from it. It's a great story — and one that I recommend you don't read over lunch.

Elsewhere in this issue, we've got a feature story on companion diagnostics. Jeanene Swanson reports on growing efforts from pharmas and diagnostic companies alike to find better ways of targeting and dosing therapeutics. Another feature article explores how gene expression is revolutionizing neuroscience, with a particular focus on new programs to build human brain atlases with localized expression data.

This month's Brute Force column checks in on the paradox of "personal supercomputers," while our Under One Roof article profiles the new Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Our Lab Reunion column focuses on Steve Henikoff at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. And in news this month, we highlight the priorities Francis Collins laid out for NIH in his all-hands-on-deck introductory meeting in August. (Yes, he worries about funding stability, too.) Last but not least, Sandra Porter writes a My Take column this month, with a great dissection of the debate about using students to annotate genome sequence.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.