Issue 91, October 2017
bullet nutriCARD: The Competence Cluster for Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health
bullet Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Changes in the Human Lung Microbiome

Cracking the Microbiome 
The human microbiome, comprised of three million bacterial genes, is a rapidly expanding research field. Scientists have discovered that a disruption in the gut microbiome has implications for disease, including chronic inflammatory and metabolic diseases, as well as mental health disorders. A new study carried out by the University of Regensburg on how disturbances to gut bacteria may influence depression, suggests that nutrition and diet combined with other strategies could help treat the disorder.

This month's newsletter highlights new developments in the German microbiome landscape. CEMET, a microbiome company started by three researchers and a renowned laboratory in Tübingen, is currently working on creating one of the world's largest microbiome reference databases to better understand the influence of gut bacteria in cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. The competence cluster nutriCARD, formed by three German universities, develops healthy cardioprotective foods, validates nutritional concepts, and identifies novel biomarkers.

Our interview partner this month, Prof. Dr. Andre Franke, provides insight on how next generation sequencing technology can be used to analyze the entire microbiome of a person in great detail. In addition, he describes genome-wide association studies that focus on genes that shape the intestinal microbiome.

Prof. Dr. Andre Franke is a professor of molecular medicine and director of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) at Kiel University, where he is the head of the genetics and bioinformatics research group. His research interests are the molecular biology of complex inflammatory diseases and genome-wide association studies. The Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology is operating one of Germany's largest next generation sequencing centers, which is why a large amount of his research focuses on the microbiome.

Prof. Dr. Franke studied biology and received his PhD in cell biology at Kiel University. Since 2008, he is an assistant professor for epithelial barrier diseases within the DFG Excellence Cluster "Inflammation at Interfaces". In 2010, he received the Peter Hans Hofschneider Professorship from the Stiftung experimentelle Biomedizin (Foundation for Experimental Biomedicine). He has received several scientific awards, including the Hensel Prize in 2008 and the Ludwig-Demling-Forschungspreis in 2012.

In the interview with the GCRI, Prof. Dr. Franke talks about what motivates him as a researcher and discusses the advantages of next generation sequencing technology for genomic projects and the ethical issues associated with this technology. He offers his insight into the current state of Germany's research landscape with respect to microbiome science and suggests what individuals can do to keep their microbiome intact. To read the full interview, click here
Source & Image: Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB), Kiel University, University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein  

How are health and lifestyle correlated with the gut microbiome composition? To answer this important question, CEMET, the Center for Metagenomics, is analyzing the gut microbiome of up to 10,000 participants in Germany. This study, called the Tübiom-Project, began in 2016. CEMET is a company based in Tübingen that specializes in microbiome analysis. In addition to conducting its own research projects, the center offers services to scientists working on the microbiome.

The data discovered during the Tübiom-Project will be used to create a reference database that develops a clearer picture of the gut microbiome compositions within healthy people and those with different diseases. It is important to understand what a healthy microbiome looks like in order to identify compositions that are linked to diseases. Because the analysis methods strongly influence the results, it is hard or even impossible to compare results from different publications. The Tübiom-Project will, therefore, analyze a large cohort to create the reference population so that CEMET can avoid this problem.

Customers can order a full-service analysis, from DNA isolation to data analysis, or individual components of the analysis pipeline. CEMET offers different types of microbiome analysis such as 16S and shotgun analysis. The first identifies the bacteria present in a sample. The shotgun analysis allows for the identification of genes from all organisms present in a sample, not only the bacteria.

CEMET can provide the microbiome data in a Megan6 compatible format. This is powerful, free software that can be used to visualize the analyzed data. The graphical user interface makes it possible for people without bioinformatics backgrounds to examine the data, create plots, or perform further analysis. The software allows users to export data in formats compatible with other software.
Source: CEMET  


Mortality statistics show that cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are still the most common cause of death globally. In Europe and North America, alone, more than 4.8 million people die from cardiovascular diseases every year, 1.5 million of which die before the age of 75. Recent results of a comparative survey investigating the mortality rate of CVD in about 50 European countries demonstrate that Germany ranks in the middle of age-adjusted cardiovascular mortality rates. Germany also belongs to one of five European countries in which more than ten percent of individuals suffer from heart or circulation problems in the past twelve months.

Diet is one of the key factors influencing cardio- and cerebrovascular risk. Recent studies have shown that more than an estimated 40 percent of cardiometabolic deaths are associated with an unbalanced diet in Western industrialized countries.

The nutriCARD initiative, which started in 2015, addresses several key issues to improve cardiovascular health. The initiative develops healthy traditional food such as meat, dairy, and egg products with reformulation and bioaddition, without any changes of the sensory properties. It also validates nutritional diets in human intervention trials, identifies novel biomarkers associated with food consumption and health, and develops targeted communication concepts for the general public and experts.

The competence cluster was formed by the departments of nutrition at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, and by the Department of Food Hygiene at the Leipzig University. Furthermore, nutriCARD has an Innovation Office, which brings together new science and industry partners. For further information contact:

Source & Image: Competence Cluster for Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health (nutriCARD)
Coughing, breathing difficulties, and mucous production in the lungs are typical symptoms of COPD, a disease often triggered by smoking. According to estimates from the World Health Organization, COPD could become the world's third most common cause of death in 2030.  
COPD has various subtypes that, for example, can be verified by quantitative computer tomography (qCT). Scientists from the Helmholtz Association carried out a study to investigate if the microbiome in the lungs changes depending on these subtypes. They examined samples from nine healthy individuals and 16 COPD patients. The qCT scans of lungs were used to assign the patients to COPD subtypes that showed either emphysema, airway type or no structural changes in the lungs. Also, brush samples from the lungs were used to determine the composition of the lung microbiome.
The study results revealed that the composition of the lung microbiome in COPD patients is associated with structural changes in the lung detectable with qCT, but is not associated with the severity of COPD. Streptococci were often found in structurally altered lungs. The genus Streptococcus includes many pathogenic representatives that are also frequently detected in association with exacerbations. In the lungs of healthy subjects there was an increased presence of the genus Prevotella, to which a number of probiotic characteristics have been attributed.  
The findings indicate that for certain subtypes of COPD, changes occur in the bacterial communities in the lungs that can promote an increase of potentially pathogenic bacteria. With regards to personalized medicine, it is important to examine the microbiome when considering the administration of antibiotics or glucocorticoids in the event of a particular COPD subtype. 
Source: Helmholtz Association