Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.

JONAS SALK


Everyone, or almost everyone, has heard about the Human genome project. It is probably the most talked about and the most ambitious of all recent projects in the discipline of genetics and human health. The project was a grand scale effort on the part of researchers to decipher the code of life by sequencing the genome of Homo sapiens. They used state –of- the – art technology and modern tools of bioinformatics to obtain and analyse the intricate pattern of genes in our genome. One of the key objectives of the HGP was to study variations in the patterns of genes in healthy and diseased individuals. The expected divergence in the genes of diseased individuals would then provide researchers with possible study areas and would guide them towards more accurate diagnostic and treatment methods. Therefore to put it in simple terms an attempt was made to study the sequence of our genes in order to correlate them to phenotypic effects such as diseases and hence to develop better drugs and improve the standard of human life.

A similar attempt is currently underway on a global scale, though this one is much more interesting. The project being referred to here is the Human Microbiome Project. Now, what exactly is meant by the term microbiome? A microbiome can be defined in the most simple terms as the sum total of all the Microbial flora that reside on or in the human body along with their genomes. The human microbiome project is an attempt to study the enormous diversity of microbes associated with the body, and to obtain sequence data of the same. The idea is to connect changes in the populations of the microbes with altered states of health. It is a mind boggling idea considering that the human body is home to trillions of different microbes. The very idea of obtaining such vast amounts of data and then deciphering it to obtain meaningful connections to specific diseases is awe inspiring. And yet, this is exactly what researchers in institutes across the world have decided to do, under the Aegis of the National Institutes of Health or the NIH. What is even more remarkable is that a few of the preliminary reports in the field have shown definitive connections between altered microbial populations in the body and the onset and development of diseases of various organ systems.

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