6 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R

Dr. Morrow says that his team s immediate goal is to interact with as many fellow researchers as possible to formulate working groups to help them understand how the microbiome impacts the diseases these scientists are interested in, including cancer. This work is ongoing, as scientists are still being introduced to the technology and learning how it can impact their future studies.

Dr. Morrow also hopes that scientists will begin to think about sample acquisition and collection in their research studies. We need to be proactive and incorpo- rate a microbiome sample collection process in all these studies being done at UAB, he says. For example, if we re testing a chemotherapy drug, and it works well, we can look at what impact it has on the microbiome. We can then design experiments to maintain the microbiome while giving patients a particular chemo- therapy drug and seeing what effects it would have. Then we can design studies to improve the microbiome, which is what we re going to be doing in the future.

Another area where the microbiome has a tre- mendous impact is through diet. Obviously, eating the right foods helps a person feel better, and part of that is due to microbial populations readjusting to be more productive. An example of this is fiber, which is metabolized by microbes to produce a compound

known as butyrate which the intestinal linings use as an energy source and to help with immune response.

That evolutionary relationship between the microbes and their human host is one that has adapted over a long period of time. It s a new way of looking at things. I like to call it molecular nutrition, Dr. Morrow says. Before, you were told, Eat these things because they re good for you. Now what we re trying to do is give you a detailed analysis so that in the future you might be able to adjust or improve your microbiome for your overall health.

Dr. Morrow refers to this integrated effort as microbiome management controlling the microbes while healthy, or even while going through something as difficult as cancer treatment, and how they can be impacted by something as simple as nutritional changes or as drastic as a fecal transplant. The ultimate goal of this is to manipulate the microbiome to improve health.

I think microbiome management will be an integral component for the development of personalized medicine. We re constantly being attacked by microbes and fighting them off, but we have to realize it s not us versus them, Dr. Morrow says. We have 100 trillion microbes in our bodies, and if we re good to them and help them main- tain their community structure, they ll be good to us. And that will definitely help us in the long run.

We have 100

trillion microbes

in our bodies,

and if we re good

to them and

help maintain

their community

structure, they ll

be good to us.

How You Can Help Microbiome Research

How can you participate in microbiome research at UAB? The simplest way is to donate saliva or fecal samples. This will help UAB accomplish its goal of establishing a regional microbiome database to compare micro- biome data among people in a regional context.

You can also support microbiome research by sponsoring the DNA sequencing of a cell. It costs around $1,500 to analyze 100 microbiomes, and donors are needed to continue funding this research.

To learn more, visit www.uab.edu/cancer.

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