Setting Standards for Reproducibility in Gut Microbiome Research

The gut is home to a bustling microbial community that aids digestion, regulates metabolic function, and modulates the immune system. As such, numerous studies1 from the past decade have linked these communities with conditions including obesity, autoimmune disease and cancer.

Research exploring the interplay between the microbiome and health has yielded intriguing insights, but also discovered unsettling variability in the data obtained by different laboratories2. A comparison of the two largest human microbiome profiling projects, Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT) and the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), concluded that differences in the DNA extraction protocols led to significant changes in the observed ratios of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes — two of the gut’s most abundant phyla3. “It is an exciting time for the field of metagenomics and the microbiome,” says Christopher Mason, associate professor at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “However the limited ability to compare between different research studies greatly hinders the progress of the research.”

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Martha Carlin