From hype to hope: Considerations in conducting robust microbiome science

Amelia J. McGuinness, Lisa F. Stinson, Matthew Snelson, Amy Loughman, Andrea Stringer, Anthony J. Hannan, Caitlin S.M. Cowan, Hamdi A. Jama, Jose A. Caparros-Martin, Madeline L. West, Hannah R. Wardill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Microbiome science has been one of the most exciting and rapidly evolving research fields in the past two decades. Breakthroughs in technologies including DNA sequencing have meant that the trillions of microbes (particularly bacteria) inhabiting human biological niches (particularly the gut) can be profiled and analysed in exquisite detail. This microbiome profiling has profound impacts across many fields of research, especially biomedical science, with implications for how we understand and ultimately treat a wide range of human disorders. However, like many great scientific frontiers in human history, the pioneering nature of microbiome research comes with a multitude of challenges and potential pitfalls. These include the reproducibility and robustness of microbiome science, especially in its applications to human health outcomes. In this article, we address the enormous promise of microbiome science and its many challenges, proposing constructive solutions to enhance the reproducibility and robustness of research in this nascent field. The optimisation of microbiome science spans research design, implementation and analysis, and we discuss specific aspects such as the importance of ecological principals and functionality, challenges with microbiome-modulating therapies and the consideration of confounding, alternative options for microbiome sequencing, and the potential of machine learning and computational science to advance the field. The power of microbiome science promises to revolutionise our understanding of many diseases and provide new approaches to prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-130
Number of pages11
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Volume115
Early online date14 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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