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The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is a program funded by the NIH Roadmap for Biomedical Research. [1] The main goal of the project is to better understand the different types of bacteria inside the human body. The program can be further broken down into three sub-goals. [2]

  • Take advantage of new technologies that allow for better and faster characterization of the bacteria in the bodies of at least 250 volunteers.
  • Better understand the association between the human microbiome and health/disease.
  • Provide standard data resources and methods associated with studying the human microbiome

Prior to the HMP, people severely underestimated the amount of bacterial cells found inside the human body. Now it is estimated that bacteria outnumber our somatic cells by 10 fold, meaning that the majority of the DNA found inside of the human body isn't human at all. [3] It's easy to understand now how much the microbiome can impact the human body, purely based on the number of foreign cells present.

The HMP has been largely successful as a whole. It was recently announce that they have created a library containing all of the "healthy" bacteria found within the human body. They gathered more than 5000 samples from 242 healthy volunteers and determined that there are over 10,000 different types of bacteria inhabiting the human body. [4] With this information they created a library that can be used to analyze the microbiome of sick patients. Using the HMP library, we identify problems in the microbiome of individuals and then take measures to fix the problem.

References:

  1. http://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp/index
  2. Peterson, Jane, et al. "The NIH human microbiome project." Genome research19.12 (2009): 2317-2323.
  3. Turnbaugh, Peter J., et al. "The human microbiome project: exploring the microbial part of ourselves in a changing world." Nature 449.7164 (2007): 804.
  4. Human Microbiome Project Consortium. "A framework for human microbiome research." Nature 486.7402 (2012): 215-221.