The human gut microbiome is an emerging focus in medical research. This research supports the importance of gut symbiosis resulting in its increased significance in medical literature. Companies such as uBiome’s SmartGut are pioneering microbiome research by testing a variety of fecal matter from willing donors and compiling data on how different lifestyles can affect the microbiome. Some companies are also using recent research to develop personalized probiotics to boost immunity, aid digestion, and reduce allergies. Furthermore studies have shown that by reintroducing beneficial probiotics to the guts of obese individuals, symbiosis supported their ability to lose weight and return more quickly to a healthy state.
Although these innovations are helping to advance therapeutics, they do not address the development of the gut microbiota from birth and instead work to fix dysbiosis later in life. For example, a mother’s vaginal fluid contains organisms that during the birthing process shape the baby’s gut microbiome and are shown to contribute to the baby’s immunity. Babies delivered non-vaginally miss these benefits. Meanwhile, the rate of cesarean births in the United States is increasing. In 2015 32% of babies were delivered non-vaginally, about a 10% increase from 1989. Additionally there are beneficial bacteria in mother’s milk that contribute to a healthier and more diverse microbiome development in their new born. A variety of problems can prevent babies from breastfeeding at all or for as long as is recommended. The trends for breastfeeding have been improving with the CDC reporting that in 2013, 77 percent of mothers were breastfeeding.
To aid babies who do not have natural births and/ or are not breastfed, personalized medicine and big data would be implemented in the growing research area of the microbiome and applied to pediatrics. There is emerging research on the development of infantile microbiomes but it is not delving into the particular bacteria that could help different microbe deficits in newborns. As researchers collect samples across a wide population, we can begin to recognize beneficial bacteria colonies and input this into a software system. Using this system, fecal sample of babies with formula use or who experienced cesarean births would be compared to the microbiomes of healthy babies at different stages throughout their development. With this information, personalized probiotics could be formulated for individual babies to compensate for the bacteria that have not been introduced into their microbiome.
Rather than addressing the problem of dysbiosis in adults, this proposed system would help maintain symbiosis in gut microbiomes from birth in order to promote immunity and strong digestion that can last into adulthood. Understanding this data offers a window into prevention by decreasing the impact of conditions already shown to correlate with gut microbiota such as asthma, diabetes and obesity. By focusing on these areas, we could help to improve the quality of life and decrease the cost of care for an estimated 8% of the US population with asthma, 9% with diabetes and more than 35% with obesity.
PRECISION MEDICINE & DRUG DISCOVERY
Author: Mia Wallach
Status: Project Concept