Posts tagged human microbiome project

Zoo in You Exhibit Now Open

Did you know trillions of microbes make their homes inside your body? In fact, these microorganisms outnumber our human cells 10 to 1, “colonize” us right from birth, and are so interwoven into our existence that without each other, none of us would survive! Thanks to new sophisticated technology and the cutting-edge research of the Human Microbiome Project, we are just starting to discover what these microbes are up to and how they affect us. And now in Zoo in You: The Human Microbiome, a new 2,000 square foot bilingual traveling exhibit created in partnership between JCVI and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), and funded by a SEPA grant from the NIH, visitors can now explore this fascinating and complex world inside us that is our microbiome—a dynamic, adaptable, and delicately balanced ecosystem like any other found in nature.

A few of the Zoo in You components including “Weather Reports” and “Microbes in the Family”

A few of the Zoo in You components including “Weather Reports” and “Microbes in the Family”

The exhibition features 15 interactive, free floating hands on components that are designed to focus on three overarching topic areas to educate and inform visitors on the concept that our bodies are complex ecosystems that we are just starting to understand and explore.  Through these exhibit components museum goers will “meet the microbes” to learn about the organisms which live on and inside us from the moment we are born, to understanding the importance of the dynamic and delicately balanced human microbiome in “balanced ecosystems”, and lastly visitors will “explore the microbiome” to learn the importance of scientific research to increase our understanding of human health.

Zoo In You introduction component “Meet the Microbes”

Zoo In You introduction component “Meet the Microbes”

There are numerous interactive, hands on activities for visitors.  Such activities include “Weather Reports” where guests will have the opportunity to interact with green screen technology to give a weather report on the climate conditions of your nose, gut or skin.  They also will be able to build a DNA Puzzle where they race against the clock to assemble a DNA strand and participate in a hand washing contest.   Participants can challenge each other in exhibit components such as “Microbes in Balance”, a large touch screen video game to see if they can keep their “health-o-meter” in balance and in “Microbe Mirror” a motion sensing activity where visitors come face to face with their full body reflection and control the changes in their microbiome as they react to everyday occurrences.  Throughout the exhibit components feature contributions by JCVI Scientists Dr. Karen E. Nelson, Dr. Hernan A. Lorenzi, and Dr. Ramana Madupu including “Stories & Choices” an activity where visitors listen to the scientist interviews and make choices based on various fun questions which relate to microbiome research.

The Zoo in You exhibit is now on display at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, OR through July 2015, it will then travel to Science Works Hands-On Museum in Ashland, OR October through December 2015.  It will begin its national tour at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego, CA in partnership with JCVI.

Professional Development Opportunities this Summer

This summer we are offering two professional development workshops: GenomeSolver and Bioinformatics: Unlocking Life through Computation.  Both explore bioinformatics, microbial diversity and the implementation in the undergradauate or high school classrooms. 

The GenomeSolver workshop trains faculty on genome analysis. Workshop attendees will learn about general methodologies, standards, and processes used to annotate and analyze microbial genomes. The workshop contents will be available to aid the faculty in developing teaching modules. In addition, extensive documentation on methodologies and tools will be available via the online environment created for this project. On online web portal Genome Solver (www.genomesolver.org) will be a virtual space for development and sustaining of community. Genome Solver will assist faculty with technical issues and curricular design, as well as an online environment for the ongoing sharing of information including publication of student work. 

http://www.jcvi.org/cms/education/prodev/genome-solver-annotation-workshops

Bioinformatics: Unlocking Life through Computation is a new opportunity for high school teachers. Genomics and biotechnology are valuable tools in our quest to understand life and nature. However, introducing the science classroom to the computational and mathematical underpinnings of biology can be challenging. The goal of this workshop is to introduce a curriculum for mathematics and science education in the area of genomics (with a focus on the fascinating world of microbes). Educators will be introduced to the various analysis and computational challenges that arise in this discipline. Workflow examples illustrating comparative genomic analysis will be made available through the JCVI Metagenomics Report (METAREP) software infrastructure. The eventual aim is for the educational material to be integrated with local high school curricula requirements to expose students to both hypothesis-driven and discovery-based science.

 http://www.jcvi.org/cms/education/prodev/bioinformatics-unlocking-life-through-computation/

JCVI Supports Human Mircrobiome Body Site Experts with Shotgun Data Analysis

Members of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) Consortium (see http://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp and http://www.hmpdacc.org for more information on the project and partners) including human microbiome body site experts gathered for a virtual Jamboree January 19th. The fully online-based Jamboree has been set-up to communicate initial data products and tools best suited for analysis, primarily to make the data amendable/consumable in a user-friendly way for body site exerts. 61 participants followed the Jamboree agenda with presenters given access to a common desktop that was shared via the internet using an online collaboration tool. Results from  the Data Analysis Working Group (DAWG) were presented in the areas of 16S rRNA gene sequence (16S DAWG) and metagenomic whole-genome shotgun analysis (WGS DAWG). The efforts of the 16S DAWG focus on marker-gene based approaches to estimate biological diversity and how marker variability is associated with patient meta-data. The WGS DAWG  complements results from the 16S marker based analysis with comprehensive sequencing of random pieces of genomic DNA from the collection of microorganisms which inhabit a particular site on, or in, the human body (microbiome). These analyses allow researchers to investigate among other questions what microorganisms are present, and the nature and extent of their collective metabolism, at a particular body site. Ultimately researchers want to relate this information to healthy versus diseases states in humans.

METAREP tutorial presented as part of the HMP Virtual Jamboree

The current survey comprises more than 700 samples from hundreds of individuals taken from up to 16 distinct body sites. Illumina sequencing has yielded more than 20 billion Illumina reads and annotation data produced from the sequences exceeds 10 terabytes. In anticipation of such data volumes, we have developed JCVI Metagenomics Reports (METAREP), an open source tool for high-performance comparative analysis, in 2010. The tool enables users to slice and dice data using a combination of taxonomic and functional/pathway signatures. To demonstrate how the tool can be used by body site experts, we picked and loaded sample data from 17 oral samples and presented a quick tutorial on how users can view, search, browse individual samples and compare multiple samples (see video). The functionality was very well received and body site experts asked JCVI to make all the 700+ samples available. As a result of the Jamboree, JCVI in agreement/collaboration with the HMP Data Analysis and Coordination Center and the rest of the HMP consortium, will soon set-up a dedicated HMP METAREP instance that will allow body-site experts and eventually other users to analyze the DAWG data in a user-friendly way via the web.

HMP Consortium – St. Louis Missouri

Human Microbiome Project Consortium – September 2010 – St Louis, Missouri

We received warm welcome messages from Dr George Weinstock and Dr Jane Petersen as well as a humorous welcome from Dr Larry Shapiro, Dean of Washington University Medical School. 

It was wonderful to see so many scientists come together to share the progress on their individual HMP related demonstration projects.  Our own demonstration project with Dr Zhiheng Pei, involving the esophagus microbiome and how that relates to esophageal adenocarcinoma (EA), was quite unique compared to the other projects as we were the only group to focus on the correlation between bacterial population and a form of cancer. 

With over 400 participants and 59 speakers, the conference was quite successful and very interesting.  JCVI Director Dr Karen Nelson did a wonderful job moderating one of the segments.  Dr Roger Lasken also gave a thorough presentation on his lab’s single cell approaches to genomic sequencing of uncultureable bacteria.  Johannes Goll gave a great presentation on his recent work with an open source tool called METAREP (recently published in Bioinformatics 8/26/2010), which is designed to help scientists with analyzing annotated metagenomic data.  And Dan Haft presented his interesting work with algorithmically tuning protein families from reference genomes for systems discovery. 

Overall the conference was quite interesting and informative.  I continue to wish all of the participating sequencing centers, PIs, and others involved with the HMP much success with their projects. 

Hope to see everyone in Vancouver!!!

Scientist Spotlight: Karen Nelson

Karen’s interest in the natural world was sparked at a young age. Born in Jamaica, she enjoyed the outdoors and wonders of nature. Karen was drawn to animals and wanted to become a veterinarian, but after taking some human and animal nutrition courses in college she was hooked on microbiology. Karen received her B.Sc. in Animal Science from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, her M.Sc. in Animal Science from the University of Florida, Gainesville, and her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Cornell University. The confluence of her interests led her specifically to the study of ruminant microbiology at Cornell. Here she learned that the microbiome, the native microbial populations within an animal, could be very important to its health and well-being. Besides learning all she could about the fistulated and canulated animals, her fondest memory of graduate school is the night when 4 feet of snow was dumped onto campus. It must have been quite the sight for this native Jamaican!

Dr. Karen Nelson

Dr. Karen Nelson

Karen joined JCVI’s legacy organization, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) as a postdoctoral fellow in 1996 where she was drawn to the possibility of elucidating the genomes of archaea, which were at the time, a relatively new domain that had extremely interesting species that are adapted to extremes of pH, temperature, and pressure and that also play a crucial role in the rumen to maintain hydrogen potential. Since then she has steadily risen to become one of the leaders in the fields of microbial and metagenomics research. She considers herself a microbial physiologist who uses genetic tools to link general biochemistry and environmental microbiology, in a sense adding real world context to the vast genomic datasets. When asked what it is about microbes that fascinates her, she said, “It’s the fact that these ‘simple’ organisms are far more complex than we ever thought.” Her early work at TIGR in sequencing Thermotoga maritima, a bacterium isolated from a thermal vent off the coast of Italy solidified this belief. Here was an organism from domain Archaea whose genome revealed that many gene sequences resembled those of Bacteria, suggesting that this organism either shares a deeply rooted ancestor or that it had exchanged segments of it genome across domains through lateral gene transfer –providing critical insights into microbial evolution.

At JCVI she is working on projects including the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which is a major initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to sequence the plethora of organisms living on and within our bodies. The goal of this project is to sequence and understand these microbes and their contributions to human health and disease. The challenges of this project are many, not the least of which are the shear numbers of organisms living within a healthy human. Karen and her group were part of a national team of researchers who completed the first comprehensive microbial survey of the human gastrointestinal tract. In addition to the human microbiome work she and her team conduct, they are also collaborating with the University of Illinois to investigate the microbial diversity of 24 non-human primates including bonobos, our closest primate relatives. She also continues to be involved in a variety of other metagenomics projects, including studies of the rumen and corals

In December 2009, Karen was promoted to the position of Director of JCVI Rockville, MD Campus, where she will help to grow the research programs and continue her trail-blazing studies in fields of microbial physiology and metagenomics.

Note: Adapted from the original article written by Greg Wanger of the JCVI Microbial and Environmental Genomics research group.