What is microbiome?
The microbiome comprises all of the microbial genetic material within an ecosystem or within special ecological communities. The term microbiota was first coined by Joshua Lederberg (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1958). It is the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space. It is now appreciated that the human body contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. However, most of them cannot be cultured using modern techniques. By metagenomic analyses (analyses of genomes directly from biological or environmental specimens, without the need for culturing the organisms) using high throughput sequencing, coupled with high-end computation we are on the verge of recognizing the tremendous impact of microbiota on human health. The human microbiome analysis is shedding new light on diseases like cancers, diarrhea, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder as well as nutritional conditions like obesity and undernutrition.
What are we doing in our microbiome laboratory?
Why do we want to study microbiome when so many scientists all over the world are working on this cutting-edge science? We believe that the published body of literature shows us just the tip of one iceberg, and there are many more icebergs to look for. In the RGCB microbiome laboratory, we share instruments (next-generation sequencing, microscope etc) and expertise ( molecular biology, bacteriology, virology) and also collaborate with other labs and clinicians to understand how dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) in the microbiome structure (with special emphasis on bacteria and viruses) can lead to many acute and chronic diseases as well as altered nutritional statuses. The RGCB microbiome laboratory intends to function at the interface of basic science, clinical studies, ecological research, computational biology, biochemistry, nutritional sciences andtranslational research, where the academic investigators and the clinicians collaborate to find the etiology and the therapy of infectious diseases.
Our present interest is to analyze the stomach and the intestinal microbiomes (~300-1000 species) in relation to conditions like Helicobacter pylori (causes duodenal and gastric ulcers and gastric cancers) infection in stomach and severe acute malnutrition in children. We are also using our expertise in molecular virology to establish state of the art techniques for analyzing virome (genetic material-DNA and RNA-of all viruses including phages in a niche) in relation to several human diseases.