New research to target gut DNA linked to multiple health disorders

16 Apr 2018
David Wood

A University of Queensland startup using DNA sequencing on gut microorganisms to understand their health effects has been funded with a $100,000 Advanced Queensland fellowship.

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences postdoctoral research fellow - Dr David Wood has been awarded funding as a founding member of Microba Pty Ltd for a project to data mine the gut microbiome.

Dr Wood said the human gut was home to trillions of bacteria that aided digestion and produced compounds essential for life, such as vitamins.

“Changes to the gut microbiome (community of microorganisms living in the body) are associated with numerous disorders, including obesity, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and mental health conditions”, he said.

 “Many of these disorders are on the rise in Australia and elsewhere, and we know that the gut microbiome is critical to health and well-being.

“However, much of the data available about the communities of microorganisms in the microbiome are based on laborious culturing techniques, or on DNA sequencing of a single barcode gene, which provides low resolution information, and cannot tell you all of the organisms present, nor what the organisms are actually doing.”

Dr Wood said the company would use a DNA sequencing method called Whole Genome Sequencing to sequence all of the DNA in a microbiome to more precisely identify organisms and their functions.

“As an Advance Queensland Founders' Fellow, I will be mining these data to recover thousands of microbial genomes, many of which will be new to science.

“We will determine if these genomes are associated with health conditions, and use this information to help provide a high quality service to our customers and ultimately improve the lives of Australians."