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The wonderful world of the gut microbiome

The diverse realm of microorganisms that plays a vital role in our digestion, interacts with our brain chemistry, and even influences our immune systems, is generating a lot of scientific interest. The question is, what else does it do, and how?

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The microbiome is the name given to all the microorganisms living within and on us; most live in our gut. These are completely unique to each one of us and we host over 100 trillion of them. This community of interdependent microbes has an extensive impact on our biology, and research essentially breaks down into two main areas: taxonomic diversity to identify ‘who’ is there, and functional metagenomics to figure out what they are doing. So, how can you tell, in real time, what chemical signals are being sent out to other organs by the microbiome? And do those signals change how our brains work? How does our immune system interact with the microbes we host? Can that have an impact on how someone responds to chemotherapy? What about other animals – how does the microbiome of a fish differ from ours, and what common ground is there? Our three guests explore these and other intriguing areas in the latest microbiome research, funded by the EU’s Horizon programmes. Carmen Giordano, coordinator of the MINERVA project, is associate professor of Bioengineering at the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy. She leads a team of researchers developing innovative technological tools to help scientists learn more about how central nervous systems function. Nicola Gagliani heads a laboratory of the same name studying the mechanisms of T-cell biology at the University Medical Center, Hamburg-Eppendorf, in Germany. He investigated the interface between environmental factors and immune responses in the Diet-namic project. Molecular and evolutionary biologist Morten Limborg is associate professor at the Globe Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Through the HoloFood project, Morten investigated how to make aquaculture more sustainable by using tools such as metagenome sequencing to boost healthy microbiomes in fish, and other farmed animals.

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CORDIScovery, CORDIS, MINERVA, Diet-namic, HoloFood, microbiome, T-cell, immune systems, bioengineering, aquaculture