Our bodies are homes to a wide selection of microorganisms that consist of viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. Through microbiotechnology, we can study the microbiota in the human body together with their microbiomes.
Experts estimate that there are more than 10,000 species of organisms that can be found in the human microbiota. They also state that there could be more than 8 million unique genes connected to the different microbiomes present in our bodies.
One can find these microorganisms present in various parts of the human body, such as the oral mucosa, skin, saliva, gastrointestinal tract, and conjunctiva. However, the vast majority of these organisms reside in the colon.
The microbiomes present in our bodies are unique to one another based on where they’re located. Furthermore, the interconnection each one has is essentially beneficial to each other.
How Microbiomes Affect Human Health
Each microbiome in the human body plays a crucial role in our well-being. This is primarily because it supports processes such as:
- Helping maintain the integrity of the intestinal tract while supporting barrier function
- Facilitating the breakdown of food
- Providing important and beneficial nutrients along with short-chain fatty acids
- Helping regulate the immune system
- Ramping up protection against infections
- Regulating body metabolism
- Improving mental health
Thanks to microbiome technology and research, we have started seeing major advances in our understanding of the human microbiome throughout the years. Researchers have found that there are major variations with regard to the species that comprise one’s microbiome.
They’ve also learned that these microbial communities are able to change based on factors such as age, diet, stress levels, medication, and other environmental factors. Microbiome research continues to become a prevalent topic among scientists recently.
One big reason for this is that researchers found that any change in the balance of microbiota in a microbiome can lead to a range of conditions and diseases. Health problems such as diabetes, cancer, autism, obesity, anxiety, and inflammatory bowel disease are just a few examples.
Microbiotechnology and microbiome research has changed the way we look at human biology. It is now clear that we need to take into account the microbes that are part of our bodies as a major factor in terms of health and disease.
Gut Microbiome and the Brain
At this time, human microbiome research has been primarily focused on understanding how the bacteria in the gut work. This is primarily due to the fact that gut microbiota is the major community in the human microbiome that is also quite diverse.
Compared to a child’s gut microbiota, gut microorganisms from an adult are more resilient against minor disturbances. However, dramatic changes can still occur to the microbial community, especially when faced with scenarios such as disease onset and antibiotic treatment. Furthermore, the environment, diet, and genetics of an individual play a significant role in the composition of their gut microbiota.
The microbiome in the gut also plays an essential role in regulating one’s immune system and metabolism. One significant finding among researchers is that it also affects the brain.
Scientists learned that microbial metabolites impact behavior and mood through pathways that link the gut to the central nervous system. This connection includes the direct activation of the Vagus nerve in the enteric nervous system and modulation of the immune system via metabolites.
Experts in microbiotechnology are starting to recognize the relationship that psychiatric and neurological illnesses have with a person’s gastrointestinal pathology. Studies have shown that the microbiome composition of a host affects their neurological function, leading to effects such as anxiety and depression. They also found that treating these conditions with certain species of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus probiotics is capable of reducing depressive and anxious behavior.
What is the Future of Microbiome Research?
At this time, it appears that microbiome research is set to continue growing as a primary study among many scientists. This is especially true with the significant increase in the number of published articles related to the topic in the past years.
Although there is still much research that needs to be done to understand the relationship between microbiomes and diseases, it is clear that it can lead to opportunities that can benefit human health.
The following are the future opportunities that advances in microbiotechnology and microbiome research can lead to:
- Having more accurate control over the manipulation of the gut microbiome
- Involving the microbiome as part of precision medicine to help determine how a patient will likely respond to treatment
- Improving existing health therapies by taking advantage of specific and precise probiotics
- Using the microbiome as a drug delivery system to facilitate the production of therapeutic proteins
- Opening up pathways that lead to an expanded library of beneficial prebiotics
Despite learning a lot about the gut microbiome and how it affects human health, there are still many areas that we fail to understand at this time. Scientists have learned that all healthy individuals still have microbes in their bodies that can lead to disease. However, we still lack the understanding of what truly causes them to become harmful to us.
Understanding how the microbiomes in our bodies change over time and how they impact human health is, therefore, important. Experts in the microbiotechnology community need to continue exploring how microbiomes work in order to come up with groundbreaking ways to treat diseases.
Due to the informative insights that researchers have discovered on the human microbiome, microbiome research has become one of the most promising areas in science today.