Study by Stanford Scientists Reveals the Personalized Nature of our Bacteria

March 13, 2024

A detailed study of the microbiomes across the gut, mouth, nose, and skin of 86 individuals has revealed that these trillions of bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome, are highly personalized, akin to fingerprints. Over a six-year span, the bacteria most resilient within each individual's microbiome were those uniquely tailored to them, rather than being shared across the wider population. Michael Snyder, PhD, the Stanford W. Ascherman, MD, FACS Professor in Genetics and director of the Stanford Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine, emphasized the individualized nature of microbiomes, asserting that genetics, diet, and the immune system play pivotal roles in shaping this ecosystem.

This groundbreaking study, led by Snyder in collaboration with the late George Weinstock of the Jackson Laboratory, formed part of the National Institute of Health’s Integrative Human Microbiome Project. Published in Cell Host & Microbe on March 12, the research shed light on various correlations between microbiome diversity and health. Notably, individuals with Type 2 diabetes exhibited less stable and diverse microbiomes.

Xin Zhou, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in genetics and the lead author of the paper, elucidated on the potential mechanisms underlying these findings. She suggested that insulin resistance alters the composition of lipids, proteins, and other metabolites in the blood, consequently impacting nutrient availability for the microbiome and influencing bacterial growth patterns. 

These insights into the intricate relationship between the microbiome and health hold promise for advancing our understanding of disease mechanisms and developing targeted interventions.