As the head of a funding agency, I would be most excited to fund a research project regarding the relationship between the microbiome and the onset of heart disease. This is because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world (it accounts for 15.5% of deaths) and has been for the past 80 years. If we could perform studies to deeply understand how the microbiome affects heart disease, we may be able to come up with a cure. This may allow us to treat this disease by treating elements of the microbiome that contribute to its onset.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Many cancers
- Crohn’s disease
During week 1 I could only think of obesity, IBS and autoimmune disorders. I wasn’t sure exactly how the microbiome related to any of these but I knew that microorganisms worked with the body to help perform functions and that if certain microorganisms are lacking or unable to do their job, it might result in disease. This still holds true in my mind, but I have a much better understanding of this system. Additionally, I now have a longer list of diseases that may result from microbiome disruptions. Overall I now have a solid grasp on the importance of the microbiome and how the microbiome impacts overall health.
- Can experiments detect differences that matter?: It is important to be able to spot differences between closely related species, strains, sequences, etc. or else conclusions may not be accurate or may miss important clues.
- Does the study show causation or correlation?: Two factors may be correlated (the presence/absence of one is directly associated with the presence/absence of the other) but that does not automatically mean that there is causation between the factors (the presence/absence of one causes the presence/absence of the other). It is important for readers to know the difference between correlation and causation.
- What is the mechanism?: How was the experiment designed, carried out and measured? Readers should be able to understand the design and interpretation of the experiment.
- How much do experiments reflect reality?: What were the conditions under which the experiment was carried out? Readers must analyze this information to see how reliable the results are and how well they could be applied to real world situations. For instance, if the experiment involves a small population or a non-diverse population, it should probably be taken with a grain of salt until further research is carried out.
- Could anything else explain the results?: What are the alternative hypotheses? Readers should consider other possible answers before drawing any major conclusions from the results.
I think that for discussing controversy, the most important of these is causation vs. correlation. Many controversies stem around this question and exploring this topic more thoroughly may lead to greater insight.
Studies have shown that the human microbiome may actually play a very crucial role in the brain and mental health states. It is now understood that there are signaling pathways between the brain and gut microbiome which makes sense because feelings of distress/anxiousness are often accompanied by a stomach ache. A healthy, diverse microbiome may promote healthier mental states and reduce the risk of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, etc. For instance, a healthy human microbiome may help the brain respond to different emotional stimuli in a healthier way. Brain and mental health states may influence microbial communities as well. A healthy mental health state may encourage healthier life choices/habits.
I found the peer review process to be very beneficial from both sides. For instance, as I read and critiqued the work of other students, it helped me better understand the elements my own work may be lacking and how I should adjust my paper. I also found it beneficial to read the comments from my reviewers as they provided different perspectives and ideas of how I can better my paper. I learned that there are parts of my paper that can be cut out because they aren’t really necessary and parts of my paper that I should expand on.
The peer review process is intended to help the author of an article better their work before it is submitted to the public. Basically, individuals who work in the same field will read the author’s work very closely and offer suggestions/critiques/ways to enhance the work before it is published. The author can then use this feedback to revise their work. The benefit of this process is that peers are able to look at the work with “fresh eyes” and catch anything that may not make sense to the public before the author publishes the work. The downside is that peers will typically have the same knowledge set as the author so they may not realize that certain terms/topics are too technical for the general public to understand.
Behaviors that contribute to decreased microbe exposure
-Frequent hand washing
-Use of hand sanitizer
-Use of cleaning/sanitizing supplies
-Avoidance of dirt/mud
-Overuse of chemicals
I have been most surprised by the degree of influence that microbes have on human health. A person’s microbiome seems to be an extension of her/himself that is comparable to an entire universe. The microbiome is so complex and so far from being well understood which is what makes it so fascinating to me. I enjoyed learning about the gut microbiome and the many ways in which it can be altered, but my favorite topic so far has been microbial changes during pregnancy/the ways the microbial community changes when a baby is first born and begins to develop.
My favorite topic so far has been microbial changes during pregnancy/the ways the microbial community changes when a baby is first born and begins to develop. I am curious to learn more about the specific changes that occur during pregnancy and how the microbiome can be altered in positive/negative ways. Additionally, I am curious to explore how much these changes impact the developing fetus. I understand that the placenta isn’t well understood but I would like to read the research that has been done on it so far. Lastly, I would like to learn more about the specific microbiome changes that occur during the first stages of infant development and how those are altered by varying factors.
I would like to base my final paper off of microbial changes during pregnancy/the impact on the mother and fetus and during the first stages of development after birth. I think that there is a lot to learn here and many contributing factors to explore. To prepare for my paper, I can research the topic more and start to form an outline based on the research data I find.
The microbial community of the newborn could be altered by many different factors. For instance, diet will have a big effect on microbial colonization (a healthy, diverse diet during pregnancy would have a positive impact on the baby while a poor diet would have a negative impact and breast milk vs. formula will also affect the newborn). Additionally, environmental exposures could colonize the microbiome as well as illnesses and treatments such as the use of antibiotics (negative impact). The mother’s use of drugs or alcohol during pregnancy may also have a negative effect on the infant’s microbial community.
In the past I took antibiotics freely. When I was younger I experienced frequent ear infections for which my pediatrician always prescribed antibiotics as a quick fix. As I grew older I would take antibiotics whenever I caught a bacterial infection because again, my doctor prescribed them and I didn’t know enough to question this decision. In high school I began to experience significant hearing loss which my audiologist believes is the result of taking so many antibiotics as an infant. At that point I did begin to question the harmful effects of these drugs and this class has taught me even more. In the future I would prefer to look into alternative medications before taking a round of antibiotics again.