Owning “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic,
Owning to the advancement of biotechnology in medical and research fields, humans can now achieve what was once thought impossible.
From “rewriting” the biological code of malfunctioning genes to reversing the signs of aging, the possibilities today are endless. While the Human Genome Project (HGP), CRISPR and stem cell research have been generating a lot of buzz lately, the underappreciated role of microbes in the human body have also impacted the medical and research fields in many unexpected ways.The word “microbiome” was created by Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg, who described it as “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that share our body space” (Fernández C. R.
, 2018). A research surprisingly found that these microorgthe total number of microbiome genes outnumber the genes of the human genome by a ratio of at least 200:1. In fact, the human gastrointestinal tract itself contains more than 100 trillion bacteria whose interactions play a vital role in human health (American Academy of Microbiology, 2013). Because of the large number of microbes in the human body, microbiome research has seen a significant breakthrough in the recent years, as experts believe that they are a key to various inflammatory disorders, autoimmune diseases and even obesity. Clostridium difficile colitis is a contagious disease characterized by severe diarrhea. It occurs due to the frequent consumption of antibiotics, which disrupts the microbiota composition in the gut.
This leads to the growth of the C. difficile bacterium, causing the colon to be inflamed (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, 2016). While antibiotics such as fidaxomycin, vancomycin and metronidazole are being used to treat C. difficile colitis, for 30% of the patents, the infection unfortunately returns within a week, as the C. difficile bacterium is resistant to a number of antibiotics (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.).
In these cases, fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is performed. FMT is the process of transplanting fecal material from a healthy individual into the colon of a diseased individual to restore the balance of its gastrointestinal microbiota (Nelson, K. E., et al.
, 2015). It was previously done by literally transferring small amounts of liquefied filtered stool from a healthy donor to the patient (Lee,C.H., et al.
, 2016). However, with the advancement of technology, FMT can now be delivered in the form of colonoscopy or frozen capsules. Today, FMT can also be used to treat leukemia and joint infection patients whose gut microbiome has been destroyed due to antibiotic treatment and intensive chemotherapy (Fernández C. R.
, 2018). One of the most popular and interesting ways to harness the power of the microbiome is through Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT). ALLERGUT, a research project funded by Europe, aims to improve the understanding of allergic reactions. As its name suggests, this project focuses its search for the causes of allergies on the gut. Caspar Ohnmacht, project leader of ALLERGUT, centres his research on the ROR?t protein and how its presence in the intestinal flora can affect the immune system.
So far, Ohnmacht and his team have successfully showed that the colonisation of bacteria in the gut can help a person develop immunological tolerance, as the bacteria colony causes immune cells to produce ROR?t,. The ROR?t protein acts as a transcription factor that is able to alter gene expressions. It also functions as a regulatory T cell, which prevents the immune system from triggering excessive immune responses, thereby reducing allergies (Hadrich, D., 2018, June 13; Helmholtz Zentrum München German Research Centre for Environmental Health, 2017).
MedicalThe ability to improve nutritional status by producing and administering consortia of cultured, naturally occurring members of the gut microbiota of human donors, who may or may not be related to potential treatment recipients by biology or by shared living environments, will focus attention on a number of issues; they include ownership of microbes (and concepts of self) and the type of preclinical data packages and trial designs required for approval of human studies. The possibility of “inoculating” malnourished infants and children with consortia of cultured gut microbes to effect durable repair of their defective gut microbial community maturation and restore healthy growth highlights the need to carefully address issues of short- as well as long-term safety and efficacy and potential societal responses to interventions that produce enduring changes in human biology.