Friday, December 7, 2012

Two projects seeking to study the bacteria, fungi and other microscopic creatures that live on human bodies are now posted on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website. Almost anyone is able to participate in either study.

For both projects, participants donate a certain amount there's a $69 minimum for one project and a $99 minimum for the other to receive a sample kit. Participants then take their own samples and send back the kit, along with a survey, food log or other information about themselves. When researchers are done analyzing a sample, they use the data for their own study and send the participant information about the microbes they found in the participant's sample what species are there, for example, or how the participant's species compares to other participants' samples.

The time is right for projects like this, Lita Proctor, a scientist who coordinates the Human Microbiome Project for the U.S. National Institutes of Health . DNA reading technology, which scientists use to pinpoint the microbes that live in a bit of skin or stool, is cheaper and more sophisticated than ever.

Other groups, such as the National Institutes of Health, have finished studies on hundreds of people that suggest human-dwelling microbes are linked to people's weights, whether they get certain diseases and certain choices they make, such as what they choose to eat. Now, researchers hope to learn more by studying thousands of people at once and crowdsourcing is an efficient, cost-effective way to do so.So for those just itching to know what lives with them, what are their choices?

UBiome (pronounced "NOO-bye-ohm"), run as a startup by three young researchers, seeks to gather microbes from participants' ears, noses, mouths, genitals and guts. The project hopes to find associations between microbe species and a wide variety of diseases, such as depression, diabetes and breast cancer, according to the project's website.

Project researchers also hope to be able to answer questions for individuals, such as "How much caffeine am I actually absorbing?" one of uBiome's founders, Jessica Richman, told e news. If their Indiegogo campaign goes well, Richman and her colleagues want to set up a company that provides microbe identification for customers.

UBiome researchers will accept participants from anywhere in the world. Those interested should sign up on uBiome's Indiegogo page. Participants will get a sample-gathering kit in the mail in May 2013, Richman said.

The American Gut Project, on which e news previously reported, focuses on microbes in the digestive tract. The 29 American Gut Project researchers, who are based at universities around the world and at the Argonne National Laboratory, will look for associations between people's diets and the species of microbes found on their bodies.

Participants must live in the U.S. The project has its own Indiegogo page where participants can sign up. Donors can expect to get kits in January 2013.