We’ve been talking in the Biobase lately about food science and specifically how it is important to keep sterile conditions where you’re cooking. I’m sure all of my readers know the negative effects of microorganisms: nausea, diarrhea, fever, or worse. The next topic that we are discussing, and one that I want to discuss here, is something that people don’t often realize: the importance of good microorganisms! You may have heard very recently that the White House announced a new Microbiome Initiative: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/05/13/announcing-national-microbiome-initiative . You may wonder: Why should we care about what’s in our guts? It’s only recently that we as scientists have come to realize that it’s much more important than we all thought.
The Microbiome consists of all of the microorganisms: bacteria, fungi, protozoa and even viruses inside of your intestines. I’ve mentioned before how your gut contains millions of different cells and, in some respects, makes up more of your body than your actual cells! Microorganisms, such as lactobacillus are used in the production of foods such as yogurts, cheeses, and breads. When we consume these food the microorganisms and also the probiotics end up in our gut and help them to become part of our microbiome. Scientists have linked a healthy or unhealthy microbiome to disease such as diabetes(1), cancer(2), and some have even gone so far as to call it your “Second Brain” due to all of the effects it can have on your body. The microbiome does so much more than just helping to break down your food. It can help send signals throughout your body to respond to diseases and other negative conditions.
All of these revelations about the gut microbiome have caused a paradigm shift in the way in which we treat microorganism based infections. I talked before about how our lab studies the development of antifungal resistance in fungi. Not only can antimicrobial drugs cause the selection of resistant organisms, they can also destroy the positive ones in your gut. This brings me back to our discussion about “molecular yoga”. Remember we want to create molecules that are flexible enough to perform multiple tasks but also with high specificity. Many of the antibiotics that exist currently, for instance, are specific towards bacteria but not necessarily towards toxic bacteria only. I’m thinking of various ways in which we can use the microbiome as a counter screen in high throughput assays to address this problem. I hope I can share these ideas with you sometime in the near future!
Thanks for reading again. Please send me any thoughts you might have!