All those microscopic organisms living in and around our bodies play an important role in keeping us healthy. And just like humans, different environments on Earth have their own unique microbiomes that impact the health of the planet and its inhabitants—and soon we hope to know more about them than ever before.
Earlier this month the White House launched the National Microbiome Initiative (NMI), a program that will bring together scientists from leading institutions nationwide in order to better understand how the trillions upon trillions of microbes that reside within us and around us impact our health and our surroundings. According to a recent White House fact sheet, the broad-scale project has three main goals:
- Supporting interdisciplinary research to answer fundamental questions about microbiomes in diverse ecosystems;
- Developing platform technologies that will generate insights and help share knowledge of microbiomes in diverse ecosystems and enhance access to microbiome data; and
- Expanding the microbiome workforce through citizen science, public engagement, and educational opportunities.
Researchers involved with the NMI point out that although microbial processes drive nearly all life on Earth, we know very little about how our microbial co-inhabitants do what they do. The National Microbiome Initiative hopes to change that by delving into the heart of the matter and seeing what there is to discover.