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A unified initiative to harness Earth's microbiomes

Alivisatos, A. P. and Blaser, M. J. and Brodie, E. L. and Chun, M. and Dangl, J. L. and Donohue, T. J. and Dorrestein, P. C. and Gilbert, J. A. and Green, J. L. and Jansson, J. K. and Knight, R. and Maxon, M. E. and McFall-Ngai, M. J. and Miller, J. F. and Pollard, K. S. and Ruby, E. G. and Taha, S. A. and Orphan, Victoria J. (2015) A unified initiative to harness Earth's microbiomes. Science, 350 (6260). pp. 507-508. ISSN 0036-8075.

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Despite their centrality to life on Earth, we know little about how microbes (1) interact with each other, their hosts, or their environment. Although DNA sequencing technologies have enabled a new view of the ubiquity and diversity of microorganisms, this has mainly yielded snapshots that shed limited light on microbial functions or community dynamics. Given that nearly every habitat and organism hosts a diverse constellation of microorganisms—its “microbiome”—such knowledge could transform our understanding of the world and launch innovations in agriculture, energy, health, the environment, and more (see the photo). We propose an interdisciplinary Unified Microbiome Initiative (UMI) to discover and advance tools to understand and harness the capabilities of Earth's microbial ecosystems. The impacts of oceans and soil microbes on atmospheric CO_2 are critical for understanding climate change (2). By manipulating interactions at the root-soil-microbe interface, we may reduce agricultural pesticide, fertilizer, and water use enrich marginal land and rehabilitate degraded soils. Microbes can degrade plant cell walls (for biofuels), and synthesize myriad small molecules for new bioproducts, including antibiotics (3). Restoring normal human microbial ecosystems can save lives [e.g., fecal microbiome transplantation for Clostridium difficile infections (4)]. Rational management of microbial communities in and around us has implications for asthma, diabetes, obesity, infectious diseases, psychiatric illnesses, and other afflictions (5, 6). The human microbiome is a target and a source for new drugs (7) and an essential tool for precision medicine (8).

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle Text
Alivisatos, A. P.0000-0001-6895-9048
Jansson, J. K.0000-0002-5487-4315
Knight, R.0000-0002-0975-9019
Orphan, Victoria J.0000-0002-5374-6178
Additional Information:© 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science. Published Online October 28 2015.
Issue or Number:6260
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160104-070726621
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:A unified initiative to harness Earth's microbiomes A. P. Alivisatos, M. J. Blaser, E. L. Brodie, M. Chun, J. L. Dangl, T. J. Donohue, P. C. Dorrestein, J. A. Gilbert, J. L. Green, J. K. Jansson, R. Knight, M. E. Maxon, M. J. McFall-Ngai, J. F. Miller, K. S. Pollard, E. G. Ruby, S. A. Taha, and Unified Microbiome Initiative Consortium Science 30 October 2015: 350 (6260), 507-508.Published online 28 October 2015 [DOI:10.1126/science.aac8480]
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:63309
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:04 Jan 2016 19:04
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:18

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