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The promise of the microbiome: Function and dysfunction in humans and beyond

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Science  11 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6193, pp. 226
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6193.226-c


Microbiomes–the distinct microbial populations that colonize an array of bodily and environmental niches–are rapidly gaining prominence in numerous fields of research. Increasing understanding of the composition and characteristics of these microbial communities is providing substantial insight into the function, and dysfunction, of a broad range of processes in the host organisms. Recent discoveries indicate a role of the microbiome in specific physical conditions and disease states; these discoveries suggest considerable potential for the development of microbiome-based diagnostic and therapeutic tools. While the microbiota of the human gut has drawn much attention to date, microbiome research is by no means limited to the study of the intestinal populations, or even to the study of humans. Efforts in environmental and agricultural research, for example, reflect a growing interest in the relevance of nonhuman microbiomes.

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