The human gut microbiome has a profound impact on many aspects of human health and development. Nutritional- and environmental-driven changes in the microbiome are linked to the worldwide increase in chronic metabolic and immune diseases that represent major challenges to human health and the Australian healthcare system.
A healthy microbiome is associated with common metabolic functions and the generation of ‘good’ metabolites that will directly or indirectly affect the nutrition, physiology and immunity of the individual. Changes in the microbiome are associated with the production of metabolites that can cause immune dysregulation, autoimmunity/allergies, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic GI diseases and even shape mood and behavior.
While significant progress has been made in defining the genetic diversity of gut microbiomes as well as some of the key metabolic functions of the microbiota that are associated with human health and disease outcomes, only a minority of the thousands of metabolites produced by these communities have been chemically identified and many fewer functionally characterised. Understanding the influence that the microbiome has on the metabolome – and vice versa – will better enable researchers to develop microbe- and metabolite-targeted treatment and preventive strategies for associated diseases.
In order to achieve this, it is vital to:
- define the full repertoire of metabolites produced by the human gut microbiome
- develop new methods for identifying the function of metabolites that have physiologically relevant roles in human health
The ability to routinely profile many or all of the metabolites in microbiota samples has the potential to revolutionise human microbiome research, in the same way that whole genome sequencing has already impacted on this field. This capability will form an integral piece of the infrastructure landscape required for Australia’s transition from a disease-centered medical system to one focused on preventative and personalised healthy living interventions.
The Australian Gut Metabolome (AGM) Initiative aims to:
- develop the required methodology for profiling metabolites in the human gut microbiome using next generation ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry platforms;
- generate a publicly-accessible data resource describing previously unidentified microbiome metabolites alongside associated analytical/chemometric properties – providing the most comprehensive chemical catalogue of human fecal/GI metabolome reported to date;
- support the use of this catalogue in industry-driven clinical outcomes; and
- develop a step-change in metabolomics technologies in Australia, and internationally, by distributing this capability across Metabolomics Australia nodes.