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It’s in the Genes

Scouring the genomes and body-wide microbial communities of 93 people, researchers have discovered a link between the composition of the microbiome and genetic variation in innate immunity, phagocyte function, and other immune pathways. The research was presented by University of Minnesota population geneticist Ran Blekhman today (October 24) at the American Society of Human Genetics 2013 annual meeting in Boston.

“This is cool stuff,” Lita Proctor from the National Human Genome Research Institute wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist. “This study is the one of the first documenting the relationship between microbiome composition and the human genome.”

Other researchers have linked specific gene variants to alterations in the human microbiome, noted George Weinstock of The Genome Institute at Washington University, whose own work has shown that host-microbe interactions are influenced by genes involved in drug metabolism. This study, however, may well be the first genome-wide search for such variants in humans, and “genetic variation in mouse does not represent genetic variation that segregates in human populations,” Blekhman noted.
 
 

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