- The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope cancer and diabetes center, will add to its strengths in genomic data analysis with the establishment of a Clinical Microbiome Services Center at its infectious disease facility in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“Having a dedicated clinical services center will help ensure that we provide comprehensive clinical microbiome information to hospitals, such as City of Hope,” said TGen Pathogen and Microbiome Division Director Dr. David Engelthaler.
“It will also allow us to better support our internal and external microbiome research needs in this growing area of human, veterinary and environmental health sciences, what we call ‘One Health Genomics’.”
This effort will focus on the human microbiome and will allow researchers to examine the impact of the microbiome on human health. This can range from gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, to skin conditions, such as psoriasis.
The Services Center will also help investigate specific problems related to serious and common human diseases, such as cancer or diabetes. It will also address the health needs of animals and the environment.
Dr. Sarah Highlander, an expert in medical microbiology and the human microbiome, will lead this new endeavor. She will supervise state-of-the-art microbiome sample extraction, sequencing an analysis to spell out the intricate natures of DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites from a variety of sample types.
“I’m excited to collaborate with TGen’s geneticists and the many physicians and researchers at City of Hope, using various disciplines, including microbiology, genomics and bioinformatics to broaden our expertise on a whole host of human diseases and conditions,” Dr. Highlander said.
The human microbiome refers to the microbes, or bacteria and fungi, that live on and within the human body. The microbiome plays an integral part in everything from digestion to immune function, and there are specific communities of microbes on different parts of the body. There are also environmental microbiomes, which are found in soil and water.
“There are completely different compositions of organisms — communities— at different body sites,” Dr. Highlander said. “If you’re healthy, these are doing good things for you. You can’t survive without the microbes in your body. They are protecting you, creating barriers against infection, helping you digest your food, and making essential vitamins and nutrients.”
TGen’s Pathogen and Microbiome Division works with numerous local and international public health organizations, including the US Centers for Disease Control, to seek better ways to track, control, and prevent potential regional and global outbreaks of infectious disease. The launch of the Clinical Microbiome Services Center will enhance its work in guarding human health.