Putting Your Bacteria to Work


If you are active in social networking, you probably know about crowdsourcing. It is where startup companies or philanthropies use the internet to rally people and raise funds. Now, a biotech startup company called uBiome is using the same concept to rally people to donate their microbiome.

We each have a unique inventory of microbial life that coexists on and within our bodies. In fact, we each have ten times the bacteria over our own cells.

Scientists are just starting to learn the distinct types of bacteria and their roles in disease. For example, certain E. coli in our guts produce essential vitamins such as Vitamin K. Changes in our microbiome is associated with autism, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and asthma.

We owe much of our recent understanding to the $170 million dollar Human Microbiome Project. Scientists collected bacteria from 250 healthy people and sequenced them. Now the information is freely available to all researchers.

The new startup company wants to sequence the microbiome of at least one thousand people worldwide. You can participate. Find a link to the company on our website. They'll send you a kit to sample bacteria from your mouth, ears, and other body parts. Once in the lab, samples are sequenced and the results are posted on their website anonymously.

What's neat is the data can be available to citizen-scientists to design and conduct their own experiments. The benefits are obvious. Learning how microbiome function in disease and health can help us develop new treatments for a great number of diseases.

More Information

Biotech Startup uBiome: Sequencing the Human Microbiome
Article about the startup biotech company with plans to use citizen scientist to sequence the human microbiome

uBiome: Sequencing your Microbiome
Listing in Indiegogo: an international crowdfunding platform to raise money

Crowdsourced research delves uncertainly into the gut.
A Chronicle of Higher Education article about uBiome and American Gut crowd source microbiome efforts

Gut microbes for life
The Scientist article outlining the characteristics of bacterial population of the human gut