Reducing microbial unemployment: functional roles in the human microbiome
Speaker: Curtis Huttenhower , Harvard
Among many surprising insights, the genomic revolution has helped us to realize that we're never alone and, in fact, barely human. For most of our lives, we share our bodies with some ten times as many microbes as human cells; these are resident in our gut and on nearly every body surface, and they are responsible for a tremendous diversity of metabolic activity, immunomodulation, and intercellular signaling. In order to understand these microbes' relationship with their hosts, however, we must establish how homeostasis is maintained in health or disregulated in disease. I will present an overview of microbial metabolism and function core to the healthy human microbiome and a survey of microbes that cooperate and compete to fulfill these metabolic roles. Since even bacteria within the same "species" regularly carry strikingly different genomes, it is critical to identify community membership at the species or strain level whenever possible. Finally, I will discuss how metabolic function normally present in the gut microbiota is disrupted in inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.