A key buzzword cropping up in many different research areas is the microbiome, a term that describes the total genetic material of a microbial community resident in a specific environment. The importance of microbes, interactions with their environment and/or hosts is becoming all too clear.
This increasing prevalence in microbiome studies is due, in part, to developments in next generational sequencing that have allowed for the sequencing of large samples, naturally followed by improvements in our management of big data, through artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.
Of particular interest currently is the human gut microbiome, with numerous research studies holding this collection of bacteria at least partly responsible for multiple different diseases, and even impacting the way in which our bodies respond to exercise.
While the gut and other areas of human anatomy represent a key focus of microbiome studies, the influence of the microbiome reaches realms beyond that of the animal kingdom.
In this spotlight, we will explore the techniques changing microbiome studies and the pitfalls and difficulties in interpreting their results, alongside the impacts that microbiomes can have on both humans and the planet that we inhabit.