Crowdsourcing the microbiome: what's in your guts?

Guido sez, "The microbiome is the genome sequence of all the different bacteria that dwell on and in us, and it is very important, since there are 10 times as many bacteria cells as there are human cells in our bodies. My friends Zac and Jessica started a crowfunded/crowsourced project to do the sequencing of as many people as possible, and they want to do this not as a project in academia, neither as a corporate project from big pharma, but as peer-driven effort in which people will fund it, contribute with their samples and have access to their information. They want to make correlations between our bacteria and our health issues, individuals are experts about themselves. I think that this is specially important because unlike your genome, your microbiome can be changed, you can make a difference through lifestyle and behavior. We still ignore a lot, so this is why it is important to have a massive set of users who can not only contribute with their samples, but help to make correlations and crunch the data."

The more people join the uBiome community, the more statistical power the project will have to investigate connections between the microbiome and human health. For example, with 500 people, uBiome will be able to answer questions about relatively common diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. With 2,500, the project can investigate connections to breast cancer. With 50,000 people, the project can begin to address multiple sclerosis and leukemia.

uBiome [Scientific American]

(Thanks, Guido!)



  1. this is pretty interesting, I applaud the idea of not involving big pharma and being a citizen scientist.  not sure if it is seventy-dollars-interesting, though.  for me, anyway.  the cheap ones are sold out, but I suppose $70 is much cheaper than hiring a doctor to perform these analyses.  with the $80-and-up packages, you get a t-shirt to promote uBiome, which is cool if you like explaining to strangers on elevators that you put a q-tip up your butt because you want to know about what’s growing up there [shrugs].

  2. A cool project, but “Sequencing your microbiome” is a very misleading title. They’re only going to sequence specific short segments (16S)  of the bacterial genomes, which are kind of specific to bacterial “species” That’s nowhere close to sequencing the microbiome – a way more expensive proposition. 16S profiling is at best a census of the microbiome, which could be cool, but not really informative in terms of the functionality of the microbiome. 

    Bacteria swap genes like crazy, meaning the concept of species doesn’t really have much relevance for them. Bacteria with very similar 16S markers could be doing very different things, depending on which functional genes they have. Will we find some correlations with large sample sizes? Maybe. Is this going to be useful in the long run? Probably not.

    1. Part of the site was down when I looked. Can you tell me if they are using 454 pyrosequencing or Illumina sequencing?

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