NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — George Mason University is starting a center that will focus on the human microbiome and will conduct genomics studies of microbes that could be involved in diseases, the university said this week.
Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Defense, the MicroBiome Analysis Center that will attempt to “map the world” of the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that inhabit humans, and to study their effects on human health.
The MBAC, which will focus on using multitag pyrosequencing, specifically will study microbial imbalances in the gut, mouth, respiratory tract, urinary, and reproductive systems. Using pyrosequencing will allow researchers at the center to “examine, count, and barcode hundreds of thousands of microorganisms per day” using samples from different parts of the human body.
"This center will allow us to sequence and characterize these microorganisms in order to study their relationship to diseases such as obesity, cancer and irritable bowel syndrome," MBAC Director Patrick Gillevet said in a statement.
Gillevet developed and patented the multitag pyrosequencing technology which will “serve as the backbone of the center’s research efforts,” GMU said.
"Before this technology was developed, we would have been hard-pressed to identify a couple hundred of microbes per sample,” Gillevet said. “Now, we are identifying 50,000 or 60,000 microbes per sample. We can literally do in an afternoon what it took us 10 years to do in the past.”
Gillevet’s team is currently working with others at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago to study the presences of microorganisms in patients with breast cancer, Crohn’s Disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and HIV.
"Finding the microbes responsible for particular diseases may increase the likelihood of developing new diagnostic tests and treatments for them,” he said.