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Northeast Today

Indian Human Microbiome Project Launched in Northeast

Indian Human Microbiome Project Launched in Northeast
June 04
10:37 2017

The Indian Human Microbiome Project has been launched in the north eastern region to provide a fertile ground for discovery of new drugs and pharmaceuticals.

With the increasing human population and urbanization as well as changing lifestyle and food habits, the people across the world are facing new challenges in terms of their health and new types of diseases. This will be a major global burden in terms of loss of productivity and increasing health costs in the coming years.

Therefore, researchers and big companies around the world are looking for new drugs and pharmaceuticals to cure various diseases, investing billions of dollars. It has been found that the micro-organisms, mainly bacteria, which are present in our body can be very good sources of new drugs which can cure several kinds of diseases, said Prof Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director, Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), a National Institute of Department of Biotechnology (DBT), while launching the Indian Human Microbiome project in Imphal, first in North East.

The human body is inhabited by 10 times more micro-organisms (mainly bacteria) than the total number of cells present in our own body. These microbes contribute 360 times more genes than humans’ own genes, which play a key role in human physiology and development. The trillions of microbes in and on our body contribute for many aspects of our health, from digesting different foods and making essential vitamins and also help in boosting our immune system and protect us from different pathogens, said Sahoo.

Realising the importance of these micro-organisms, United States of America launched ‘The Human Microbiome Project’ (HMP) at a cost of $215 million. A similar project was also launched in Europe. These efforts led to a strong foundation to understand the impact of the human microbiome on human health and disease which range from neonatal health, gastrointestinal disorders, Rheumatoid arthritis, diseases associated with skin, lung, liver, urogenital tract, neurological disorders, cancer to lifestyle associated diseases like obesity, diabetes, etc.

India is a country with different ethnic groups living in different agro-climatic zones with different food habits and cultural practices. This puts India in a unique position for the mapping of the human microbiome. The mapping and understanding of the human microbiome in India, particularly, in North East India, which has over 220 ethnic groups living in very diverse topographies having diverse food habits, will have tremendous applications in understanding how micro-organisms affect human health and disease.

The launching of the Indian Human Microbiome Project is likely to provide fertile grounds for discovery of new drugs, pharmaceuticals besides leading to a new understanding of the mutual relationship between humans and the associated micro-organisms, said Sahoo. For example, a gram of stool contains about 100 billion bacteria, 100 million viruses, a million spores of fungi and also 100 million microbes known as Archaea, as well as 10 million cells from the gut lining. The organisms, which will be isolated from the stool, saliva, skin and other parts of the body, will be studied.

Dr Shekhar C Mande, Director, National Centre for Cell Sciences (NCCS), Pune, which is also a National Institute of Department of Biotechnology, is quite excited about the collaborative project with IBSD. This new joint initiative will unravel several new scientific information on various aspects of North East.


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