In a world teeming with microscopic life, the human microbiome emerges as one of the most mysterious frontiers of scientific discovery. This complex network of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms inhabiting our bodies is a testament to the intricate symbiosis between humans and microbes.
Previously, we believed that these microorganisms outnumbered our human cells by a ratio of 10 to 1 and weighed as much as 2 kilograms. However, contrary to popular belief, the ratio of microbes to human cells is closer to 1 to 1, and the microbiome weighs a more modest 500 grams. This revised view has arisen due to increased scientific research and public curiosity about the microbiome.
Understanding the microbiome means understanding ourselves at a deeper level.
A harmonious gut means a lot
It's estimated that the gut houses approximately 70 to 80 percent of our immune cells, which constantly communicate with the resident microbes. This ongoing dialogue aids in combatting diseases, bolstering immune responses, and managing inflammation, which is our body's initial response to combat infections.
The science community has conducted a lot of research to understand how these microbiomes shape our body and health. As one of numerous promising studies, in March 2023, BGI-Research spearheaded a study published in Nature Communications that unveiled 3,324 high-quality reference genomes of cultivated human gut bacteria. The findings from this study hold promise to enhance our comprehension of dietary fiber metabolism and the synthesis of short-chain fatty acids by human gut bacteria. The study also identified valuable gene clusters involved in the synthesis of secondary metabolites in our gut microbiota and established connections between bacteriophages and bacteria in the human gut.
Maintaining a balance in inflammation is essential, as excessive inflammation can damage cells and contribute to chronic diseases. It has been conclusively established that the gut microbiomes of individuals suffering from conditions like multiple sclerosis, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and even asthma, are significantly different from those of healthy individuals.
The influence of the microbiome extends beyond physical health. If you are prone to pessimism or anxiety, perhaps the solution lies within your gut. Our gut microbes are sensitive to stress, with changes in their composition reflecting and potentially impacting our ability to cope with stress. For instance, when you are tense or excited, you might feel your stomach tighten or experience abdominal pain. This two-way communication is part of the brain-gut axis, illustrating the profound influence of our gut inhabitants on our emotions and mental state.
Additionally, insufficient sleep can impact the gut because the microbiome follows a daily cycle, and sleep deprivation can disrupt the rhythm of the microbiome. Even minor disturbances to sleep patterns can have effects. For example, the difference in sleep patterns between weekends and weekdays is associated with an increase in unhelpful gut bacteria.
Clinical studies have shown that some of the best-studied probiotics appear to improve gut health by reducing harmful bacteria and increasing beneficial ones, such as Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Akkermansia muciniphila.
Probiotics help us live a healthier life
Isolated for the first time in 1983, Lactobacillus rhamnosus is recognized for its high affinity for human intestinal cells, enduring acidic and bile environments. It stands as one of the extensively studied probiotics, with research indicating its potential to alleviate rotavirus diarrhea in children, prevent atopic dermatitis, provide protection against urinary tract infections, and ameliorate symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
In 2022, BGI-Research and BGI-Nutri received patent approval for Lactobacillus rhamnosus OF44, reported to prevent and/or treat diseases caused by reproductive tract microbiota disorders and/or bone loss, helping restore the balance of microbial flora and maintain a healthy vaginal state.
The exploration of probiotics continues. In June 2023, BGI-Research and BGI-Nutri published research on discovering a new bacterial strain in the journal Enzyme and Microbial Technology. The research team has successfully isolated a highly efficient cholesterol-lowering strain named Lactobacillus gasseri TF08-1 and explored its probiotic characteristics, especially for its potential in biotherapeutics for metabolic diseases. Animal studies show that Lactobacillus gasseri TF08-1 can reduce blood lipids, lower indicators related to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases, and significantly reduce blood viscosity.
BGI has obtained a patent for this bacterial strain, which has been added to the probiotics developed and produced by BGI-Nutri. BGI has also applied its research on bacterial strains to develop and produce a wider range of probiotics catering to various needs, such as women's health, digestion problems, insomnia, among others.