Analyzing microbiota: finding opportunities for modifying composition

Complex microbial cultures (microbiota) from the skin, gut or vagina are believed to be extremely stable in their composition and functionality. However when a disruption of the microbiota occurs – when people or animals become ill-, it is extremely difficult to steer the composition in the right direction using food or medicines to return to a healthy situation (with an optimal functionality of the microbiota).

The Project: influencing the microbial composition

In a recent project for a large personal care company at NIZO, we have used bioinformatics tools to analyze DNA structures (genome sequences) of 50 bacteria with different roles in the skin microbiome (healthy or dysbiotic microbiome).

The objective was to generate a list of compounds that potentially influence the microbial composition, either by promoting growth of bacteria associated with a healthy microbiome (the “commensals”) or by inhibiting bacteria associated with an aberrant microbiome.

With this list, our client is able to test new functional ingredients that can eventually be added to the formulation of their products.

DNA of microbiota unveiled

NIZO identified a large number of genes in the microbiota that can form the basis of a possible intervention strategy. This is a breakthrough for the client, as they can now apply this in their product development, improving health benefits.

The proposed intervention strategies could be validated in in vitro systems, such as the micro-systems available at NIZO or in vivo trials for further substantiation of a cosmetic or medical device claim.

New projects to test the potential intervention strategies are now initiated at NIZO with this client. We are currently testing different interventions by adding alternative carbon sources, specific amino acids or  compounds inhibiting specific enzyme activity to our client’s products and monitor the effect on the microbiota.

Analyzing microbiota for many applications

This NIZO approach can help companies that want to be(come) active in the microbiome area to find new ingredients or metabolites with modulating properties to go from dysbiotic to healthy state. With costs of sequencing still dropping, we have seen that his will replace time and money consuming experimental screening programs and helped our clients to test results in an in vivo setting sooner, hereby improving applicability and speeding up time-to-market hereby becoming market leader.

NIZO’s microbiota screening tools can be used for studying microbial communities involved microbe-host interactions (e.g. gut, skin, vagina), and more!

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