Computing, bioinformatics, and microbial ecology resources play key role in mapping our microbial make-up
June 13, 2012
“You’re outnumbered. There are ten times as many microbial cells in you as there are your own cells.
The human microbiome—as scientists call the communities of microorganisms that inhabit your skin, mouth, gut, and other parts of your body by the trillions—plays a fundamental role in keeping you healthy. These communities are also thought to cause disease when they’re perturbed. But our microbiome’s exact function, good and bad, is poorly understood. That could change.
The bacterium, Enterococcus faecalis, which lives in the human gut, is just one type of microbe studied in NIH’s Human Microbiome Project. (Courtesy: United States Department of Agriculture)
A National Institutes of Health (NIH)-organized consortium that includes scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has for the first time mapped the normal microbial make-up of healthy humans. [Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is a United States National Institutes of Health initiative with the goal of identifying and characterizing the microorganisms which are found in association with both healthy and diseased humans (i.e. their microbial flora). Launched in 2008, it is a five-year project, best characterized as a feasibility study, and has a total budget of $115 million. The ultimate goal of this and similar NIH-sponsored microbiome projects is to test if changes in the human microbiome are associated with human health or disease. This topic is currently not well-understood.]
The research will help scientists understand how our microbiome carries out vital tasks such as supporting our immune system and helping us digest food. It’ll also shed light on our microbiome’s role in diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis, to name a few.”
See the full article here.
For those interested – and you should be interested – the Human Protein Folding Project (HPF2) at the Bonneau Lab, New York University, is a participant in the HMP project. HPF2 is a project in Public Distributed Computing under the aegis of the World Community Grid (WCG), running on software from the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) and using the project products of the rosetta@home project from the Baker Lab, University of Washington.
That is a pretty long sentence. What it means is, if you visit WCG, or BOINC, and download the BOINC agent software for Windows, Linux, or Mac, you can attach to the HPF2 project and process data for HMP. While you are at it, look around at WCG website, there are about a dozen very worthwhile projects all aimed at curing illnesses and solving fundamental problems for mankind. Also, at the BOINC website the are a vast variety of projects in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy.
Here are some pretty pictures.
So, you know, when you see graphics, these are serious guys. Give them (us) a look.
My BOINC stats.