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July 2016

Janet Jansson Among Nine Authors of Nature Review Article

Janet Jansson

Renowned veteran microbiologist Janet K. Jansson, Chief Scientist of Biological Sciences at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), was among nine authors of a review article in Nature published online July 6.

"Microbiome-wide association studies link dynamic microbial consortia to disease" used 122 papers and drew on authors from seven U.S. research institutions to summarize the latest perspectives. The paper outlines two main points: how much more the scientific community knows about the human microbiome than even the recent past, and how much closer researchers are to linking that microbiome to disease states.

Progress has been accelerated by advances in the research tools used to investigate the microbiome, the authors say, including advances in DNA sequencing, metabolomics, proteomics, and computational methods.

Microbiome-wide disease association studies have shot ahead so fast, they add, particularly because of new multiple molecular perspectives and improved time-series studies. That's an analytical method that collects successive points of data over a period of time, which broadens understanding of a phenomenon.

Some early findings already point to microbiome-disease links that call for action. But there are no clinical applications yet. More frequent observations of the "dynamic interface" are needed, the authors say, along with "an appreciation of the complexity of interactions among the microbiome and the host's diet, chemistry, and health."

The object remains, they say: to develop "precision diagnostics and therapies that are based on the microbiome."

The review article points out how disease has been linked to the microbiome (the genes of our microbes) and to human microbiotas (the microbes themselves, which inhabit an individual's body space). But it also goes into the technical and conceptual pitfalls confronting researchers, especially those pitfalls compounded by studies scaled up to include tens of thousands of people over time.

Microbiome-wide association studies (MWAS), as in the review's title, capture this kind of scale and can help link the microbiome with disease. MWAS is "somewhat analogous" to genome-wide association studies (GWAS), the authors say. But the microbiome contains more genes, and has to take into account a person's individual microbiotas.

Jansson has published widely on the microbiome and helped organize the National Microbiome Initiative launched in May. At PNNL, she leads the Microbiomes in Transition (MinT) initiative.


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About Janet Jansson

Jansson has more than 30 years experience in microbial ecology. Her specific expertise is in the use of molecular approaches (omics) to study complex microbial communities, such as those residing in soil, sediments, and the human gut. To follow Janet's research, connect with her on Research Gate.

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