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Challenge #79

Using the body's own bacteria for our health.

How do our gut bacteria affect the immune system or heart and brain health? We are investigating these relationships in order to develop personalized therapies.

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Our bodies are home to countless microbial ecosystems called microbiomes that play critical roles in our well-being. If we disturb them, for example through an unfavorable diet, stress or antibiotics, the biodiversity of beneficial bacteria becomes unbalanced. In the gut microbiome, not only can our digestion then get out of sync, but our protection against pathogens also dwindles. This can lead to inflammation or trigger diseases of the metabolism, kidneys, or psyche, and in some cases lead to autoimmune reactions.

Science has not yet been able to decipher the details of these processes. At the Max Delbrück Center, we are therefore investigating the relationships through in-vitro experiments, animal models, and clinical studies in humans. Data science also plays an important role in this research. By combining information about a person’s diet, lifestyle, and diseases with data from their microbiome through high-throughput methods – i.e., automated searches for biologically active substances – we can calculate how host and microbes evolve together and interact. In turn, this knowledge can make a decisive contribution to the treatment of serious diseases. With this knowledge, we are paving the way for new, personalized therapies and better prevention.

Image: Design Cells/Shutterstock

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