17th February|Blogs

What is the human microbiome and why are we so fascinated with it?

Scientists and microbiologists have been deeply fascinated by the human microbiome for several years. But it’s only in the last five years that consumers have started to show interest. For example, looking at Google Trends worldwide search data, the human microbiome has been steadily increasing in popularity as a search term since 2007, coinciding with the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Human Microbiome Project (HMP).

Having initially sparked interest and furthered fascination for the human microbiome, the NIH’s investigative projectlooked to generate resources to facilitate characterisation of the human microbiome to further understand how it impacts human health and disease. The project examined the microbiomes found in the gut, nose, mouth, skin and urogenital area. Since the inception of the project, research into the gut microbiome has grown exponentially.

The Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome is a highly complex eco-system that is home to trillions of microbial, bacterial and fungal inhabitants that contribute massively towards the body’s efforts to maintain homeostasis. The way the bacteria interact and engage with each other in the gut profoundly affects overall health.

Each human’s gut microbiome is unique to them, just like their fingerprint is. Numerous factors shape the gut microbiome’s health, such as genetics, gender, age, anthropometric parameters, exercise, geographic and socio-economic status. One of the largest determinants to impact the gut microbiome’s health is the diet1.

Extensive studies in gastrointestinal health and the gut microbiome have opened further understanding around its role and its impact on other bodily functions.

A Focus for Study

Over the past ten years, there have been a significant number of studies focusing on the gut, its microbiome and how it supports bodily functions. These studies have revealed interesting data and insight that supports long-held ideas about the relationship between the human gut and homeostasis.

Studies have shown that not only does the gut microbiome support the body’s immune system, but it also helps regulate metabolism, aids mental health and, most importantly, improves cardiovascular health.

The relationship between cardiovascular health and the gut microbiome is becoming more understood. Growing evidence from the latest studies suggests that alterations in the gut microbiome’s culture could play a role in cardiovascular disease treatment and prevention. Coupled with global cardiovascular disease levels rising, means heart health around the world is a matter of great concern. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 17.9 million people die each year, making it the number one cause of death globally.

Another fascinating area of study for the gut microbiome is in its role in modulating sleep, stress and anxiety levels in humans. In fact, there is growing scientific evidence that indicates there is now a relationship between the gastrointestinal microbiome, neurobiochemistry and emotional behaviour in humans. At OptiBiotix, we are keen to explore these areas, which is why our team is currently funding a joint study with Fondazione Edmund Mach – Centro Ricerca e Innovazione (‘FEM’) and the University of Southampton to explore the potential role microbiome modulation solutions could have in this area.

Commercial Success

Moving in tandem with science, great strides are being made in harnessing the power of innovative probiotic strains to aid human physiology and the gut microbiome. Our proprietary OptiScreen® technology platform is a high throughput pharmaceutical screening solution that identifies microbial metabolic pathways, which interact with human pathways to improve health.

Through OptiScreen, our team can identify key biomarkers with metabolic pathways that can interact with human physiological processes and derive health benefits. The process involves selecting and screening bacteria for their biological activity, identifying the best targets for development. After selection, we then test the strain in pilot scale production and effectively determine its efficacy through human intervention studies.

Our first successful application of the OptiScreen platform was in discovering LPLDL®, a naturally occurring strain of the bacterial species Lactobacillus plantarum, which was originally isolated from tomatoes. This proprietary and patented probiotic strain demonstrated excellent bile salt hydrolayse activity, alongside superb survival and metabolic activity in high concentrations of bile salts and conditions in the intestine. Following pilot scale production, we found that LPLDL offered a natural approach, with zero side effects, to reduce LDL (‘the bad’) cholesterol and improve HDL (‘the good’) cholesterol. Since then, the probiotic strain has been shown in human intervention studies to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, alongside boosting HDL cholesterol.

This momentum of scientific study and commercial development generated by the NIH’s HMP continues to grow with scholars and scientists’ fascination in the human gut microbiome. And as global market leaders in microbiome modulation biotechnology, we will continue to explore the potential range of the gut microbiome to ensure a healthy outlook for the world’s population.

For more information on our OptiScreen technology, contact us today at