Are you alone? Do you feel sad? Doesn’t anyone want you? Be happy! A trillions viruses, bacteria and fungi accompany you from birth until you leave this world.
For something that has evolved with us over millions of years, and remains part of our physiology over our entire lives, our gut microbiome, oddly, remains somewhat of a mystery.Is unique to each individual and has been found to be intimately connected to various fundamental aspects of our fitness, from our immunity to our metabolism and mental health.Can medical therapies improve host health by modifying the microbiome composition? We still don’t really know, so it’s a huge field of research.In our daily lives, many of us hope to improve our gut microbiome by taking probiotics and eating fermented foods. In clinical situations, fecal transplants have been shown to successfully treat recurring infections of the gut bacteria Clostridium difficile, which often recur after antibiotics used to treat infections wipe out “helpful” gut bacteria as well.It’s about more than just putting in the right microbes,you need to understand the environment that the microbes are in and you need to understand what facilitates a stable gut microbiome composition. Called SPARC (SSR-guided parameter change), this approach reduces the complexity of the system without sacrificing it.So basically, the goal is to find a parameter change that corresponds to a change in the microbiome environment.A healthy microbiome composition lies at the base of one side of the hill, and a disease-associated composition on the other. While fecal transplants directly push the ball to the healthy side of the hill, SPARC, according to the researchers, controls the shape of the hill, effectively rolling the ball down on one side or the other.To avoid the trial-and-error of manipulating an unwieldy number of different parameters, the team opted instead to examine a compressed but reliable 2D representation of the ecological model generated by the dimensionality reduction technique called “steady state reduction” (SSR). According to the researchers, this allowed them to zoom out and identify the key parameters that control the shape of the hill.SPARC currently is primarily a mathematical exercise, though the researchers are eager to try it out in an experimental setting.In the rather more distant future, this method could also help pave the way for personalized microbiome management.In order to get to that point, we need mechanistic models of the microbiome.We need to understand how to control it. We need to understand how environmental feedbacks play into microbial dynamics.
The future is the work of the present that promises us a world of happiness for a modicum of money.