HCMPH scientists are engaged in many large-scale research projects that are poised to transform our understanding of the microbiome. Leveraging substantial volume, depth, and diversity of microbiome datasets from unique clinical cohorts, the following flagship projects represent some of the most exciting research going on at the HCMPH right now.
The Human Microbiome Project (HMP, HMP2)
Researchers at the HCMPH led portions of the Human Microbiome Project, a multi-center consortium effort leading to the first catalog of microbiome structure and biochemical function across the human body. This includes the largest population to date for which deep microbial sequencing was carried out not only in the gut, but for oral, skin, and urogenital microbes, identifying the unique chemical and molecular signaling activities carried out by microbes in each of these environments. The study uncovered surprisingly persistent effects of early life experiences such as breastfeeding, which can influence microbes in the gut for decades afterward. It also identified human genetic variants that influence our microbial interactions, and which microbes change in response to dietary exposures as opposed to remaining stable and unique over time.
The MICRObiome Among Nurses (MICRO-N)
The Nurses’ Health Study, through three phases (NHS, NHS2, and NHS3), has followed nearly 300,000 nurses through longitudinal health and diet questionnaires and biospecimen collection starting as early as 1976. Now, The MICRObiome Among Nurses (MICRO-N) study will collect microbiome data from 25,000 NHS2 participants to enable research on the connection between diet and lifestyle, microbiome composition, and the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. If you are interested in learning more or in participating, please contact us at NHS2MicroN@bwh.harvard.edu or visit our FAQ page.
The Human Microbiome Bioactives Resource (HMBR)
The Human Microbiome Bioactives Resource (HMBR) is an ongoing collaborative effort aiming to create analysis pipelines to zoom in from population-scale microbiome datasets to prioritize specific molecules, genes, and microbes that contribute to disease, as an integral part of discovery, validation, and early-stage translation of novel therapeutics derived from or targeting the microbiome.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Multi'omics Database (IBDMDB)
The IBDMDB will provide an integrated resource for analyzing the gut microbial ecosystem in the context of IBD, improving our ability to understand, diagnose, and treat IBD. This project makes use of several existing, well-described patient cohorts to look at how the composition and function of the gut microbiome changes over time in IBD patients, and how the patients’ genetics and gene expression is associated with the microbiome and disease state.
OPTIMISTICC (Opportunity To Investigate the Microbiome’s Impact on Science and Treatment In Colorectal Cancer) is an international team led by Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, and Wendy Garrett, MD, PhD. Their goal is to pinpoint the mechanisms by which the microbiome impacts the initiation and progression of colorectal cancer and to apply this understanding for therapeutic benefit. The team comprises geneticists, immunologists, oncologists, microbiologists and patient advocates, each of whom are pioneers in their respective fields. In an ambitious plan that spans the translational pipeline, the aim is to integrate these diverse yet complementary perspectives to provide a 360° view of the role of the microbiome in colorectal cancer.