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This research team is out to map the microbiome—and radically change medicine

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Photo: Stocksy/Victor Torres

Your microbiome—which is made up of a plethora of bacteria, viruses, and fungi—might not sound too interesting. But one research team is doing a deep dive into the human body to figure out how the little guys that make up every part of your body affect your well-being.

According to the New York Times, the dream team of scientists are currently working on the Human Microbiome Project, which involves creating a microbiological road map for tissues in the body. Then, with modern, advanced tech, they’re planning on analyzing tissue samples—of everything from the gastrointestinal tract to airways—to see which organisms are hanging out there; something older techniques couldn’t do.

The project is set to span five years, and if researchers are successful in figuring out which changes are occurring in the microbiome that are related to disease (and other things that impact your livelihood), they can potentially change medicine as the world knows it.

And get this: The project is set to span five years, and if researchers are successful in figuring out which changes are occurring in the microbiome that are related to disease, they can potentially change medicine as we know it. And certain body parts are getting special attention (spoiler alert: your gut and your ladyparts are on the list.)

These are the 4 body parts researchers are hoping to understand in new ways.

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1. Skin

Right now, microbiologist Martin J. Blaser, MD, is focusing on psoriasis, specifically, looking at the organisms on the skin of 75 participants, to find out how current treatments for the condition negatively impact the microbiome. But his findings could give insight into the way that the millions of organisms that call you home affect your skin health.


2. Vagina

Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of bacterial vaginosis for good? Jacques Ravel, PhD, and Larry J. Forney, PhD, are currently studying 200 women to discover which microbial changes occur to cause the infection.


3. GI tract

If you’re wondering what happens when a microbiologist and a geneticist team up, here you go: Claire M. Fraser-Liggett, PhD, and Alan R. Shuldiner, MD, are joining forces to find out what role the microbiome plays in the body’s use of energy, as well as the development of obesity.


4. Blood

Know what’s crazy? More than 20 million children visit the ER every year solely because of fevers. To figure out why, Gregory A. Storch, MD, is examining the role of different types of viruses and the immune system in the blood, respiratory, and GI tracts of those infected.

If you gained the weight back you lost, your microbiome could be to blame. In the mood for a smoothie? This colorful option has a gut-friendly boost.