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Emerging Field of the Faculty of Life Sciences
"Human and Animal Microbiome Function"

The study of the complex community of microorganisms that colonize in and on the human/animal body and how they affect their host is a cutting-edge research field. The abundant host-associated microbiota, largely residing in the intestinal tract, has important beneficial functions for the host including immune system modulation, nutrient provision, and colonization resistance against pathogens. Disturbance of this mutualistic host-microbiota relationship owing to genetic predisposition or environmental factors can lead to homeostasis breakdown and disease. Genomic and postgenomic studies have revealed exciting insights into the composition and metabolic potential of the host-associated microbiota and intriguing correlative associations with human and animal nutrition, behavior, and disease. Large microbiome sequencing projects, such as the US human microbiome project or the European Meta-HIT initiative, have greatly raised scientific and public awareness of the importance of our microbial residents. However, while these predominately “big sequence data”-driven programs can generate new hypotheses about the potential role of the complex microbiota, the true physiological roles of individual microbiota members and their contributions to host ecosystem function remain largely undetermined.

Several researchers at the Faculty of Life Sciences have a strong focus and proven expertise in microbial ecophysiology and ecosystem research. The main objective of this emerging field is to concentrate this unique array of expertise for functional analyses of the human and animal microbiome and thereby significantly complement this mainly sequencing-based research area. A focus on human and animal microbiome function in host nutrition, behavior, and disease is of exceptionally high potential to provide both significant advances in scientific understanding and novel therapeutic applications.

This emerging field is funded by the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Vienna. The project runtime is 2013 to 2015.


Intestinal Microorganisms in Health and Disease

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