This is a unique open collaboration between the Department of Twin Research at King's College London and The American Gut Project (AGP) to try to understand the bacterial diversity of the British Gut.
Many people don't realize that the bacteria that live inside us play an incredibly important role in our health. There are so many of them, that they make up 90 percent of the cells in our body and their most important jobs include manufacturing vitamins for us and breaking down and digesting our food. The trillions of bacteria in our gut weigh nearly 2 kg (over 4lbs). This community of bacteria can be thought of as an extra 'organ' which we call our "microbiome". We evolved together with our microbiome over millions of years. Recent research has discovered that small changes in this finely balanced community can affect our immune system, metabolism, body weight, mood and may even cause diseases such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, autoimmune disease, diabetes and heart disease.
This is the first project of its kind in Europe and, with your help, we will be able to discover more about the crucial relationship between our health and our microbiome, and on a personal level, you will be able to discover the bacterial profile of your own gut. With your help, we hope to be able to answer questions such as 'How much does our choice of lifestyle and diet influence our microbiome, and can we alter our microbiome to make us healthier?'
We are discovering that each person is very different and has their own unique microbiome. More research is needed to work out what constitutes a 'healthy' microbiome, and which combinations of bacteria should try and be avoided. In order to do this ambitious and much-needed project, we urgently need a large scale collection of human samples. Over 7 thousand people have already signed up in America already- but we need many more from UK Europe.
The project mainly focuses on the gut as this is our main 'microbial home', however, the study will also look at oral, skin and (for women)vaginal communities as these areas of the body have problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, acne and infertility and may be influenced by the microbiome.