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Startup will 'DNA test' your poop to analyze your gut health


Microbiome

(NaturalNews) A company called uBiome is launching a new service that will allow people to conduct genetic screenings of the bacteria found in their fecal matter, to help identify whether their gut flora are out of balance and making them ill.

The service, known as SmartGut, consists of a two-minute test performed at home and then mailed off to a uBiome lab. The company performs the analysis, then sends the result to the patient's doctor, and also makes it available to the patient online.

"The SmartGut test is a transformation of the way we think about clinical microbiology," said Zachary Apte, co-founder and CTO of uBiome.

"It leverages the power of DNA sequencing to test for various microorganisms simultaneously and puts the power of microbial genomics into the hands of clinicians."

Early diagnosis of gut disorders?

The "microbiome" refers to the roughly 100 trillion microorganisms that naturally occur in and on the human body, particularly on the skin and in the gut. Research has shown that the gut microbiome plays a key role in digestion, metabolism and immune function. Disruption of the gut biome has been linked to health problems as diverse as obesity, diabetes, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Treatments targeting the microbiome also show some promise in addressing hard-to-treat diseases. For example, inoculating the gut microbiome with a technique known as fecal transplantation (exactly what it sounds like!) is 90 percent effective at curing infection with the superbug Clostridium difficile (C. dif).

According to uBiome, the company's test can detect microorganisms from 28 different species and genera that have been linked with disorders of the gut. This is more genera and species than any other screening currently available.

"SmartGut will allow patients to work with their doctors to assess the health of their microbiome," said Dr. Jessica Richman, company co-founder and CEO. "Tens of thousands of citizen scientists helped to make this possible, and we're very grateful for their help and support."

uBiome has submitted its testing methods to a peer-reviewed journal. The paper can be reviewed by the public at the online archive BioRxiv.

While the company has not announced how much the test will cost, it says that most insurance plans should cover it if requested by a doctor.

'Citizen science'

Since its founding in 2012, uBiome has made news through its use of crowd-sourced data gathering by what it calls "citizen scientists." The company has distributed fecal collection kits to thousands of healthy volunteers.

Because the natural composition of the microbiome can vary widely even among healthy individuals, it can be hard to diagnose exactly what constitutes a pathological microbiome. By collecting and analyzing nearly 100,000 gut samples, uBiome says it was able to create a profile of the natural range of variation in the 28 species and genera that constitute a healthy gut ecosystem.

This, in turn, they say, allowed them to identify abnormalities associated with specific health conditions.

"This is one of the first full demonstrations of uBiome's model -- empowering citizen scientists to explore their own microbiome and utilize their contributions en masse to develop the next generation of microbiome science and products," Apte said.

The company hopes that its techniques can help close the gap between ongoing research into the microbiome and concrete health benefits for human beings.

"We learn more about health every year, but unnecessarily negative health outcomes are common because the system doesn't encourage people to take preventative action," said Joe Lonsdale, founding partner of uBiome funder, 8VC. "By making gut health testing faster and easier, uBiome will unquestionably have a massive impact."

Sources for this article include:

DDDMag.com

Benzinga.com

BioRxiv.org

NaturalNews.com

UBiome.com

HopkinsMedicine.org

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