Abstract ID: 3873

Primary Topic: Natural products/botanicals/supplements
Secondary Topic: State of the science/evidence base for integrative modalities

Back to the Future: Probiotics and Microbial-Host Keystone Organisms and their Essential Functions
Linda C Duffy, PhD, MPH; Craig D Hopp, PhD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, United States

Late Breaker: No


Probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. Probiotics are derived from human gut microorganisms that have co-evolved with us. Probiotic formulations include vaccines, drugs, functional foods, dietary supplements and topical applications. Over 80% of our immune system is found in the intestines and microbial communities play an intimate role in immune regulation imbalances throughout life. Our mental health could also be a sign of intestinal imbalance. Much attention in Human Microbiome research has recently shifted to the ecological concept of keystone microbes that, by definition, are of low abundance, the removal of which has destabilizing impacts on energy metabolism and host health. The search has intensified for identifying keystone microbial groups and their genes that may provide novel molecular footprints [immunogenic; metabolic; neurologic; physiologic] and a rationale-basis for designer probiotics for the future. This symposium will convene researchers from federal government and broader research community. The symposium will open with an invited talk from Justin Sonnenburg, PhD Stanford University who will give a probiogenomics view in the search for keystone [probiotic] groups and functions in the Ancestral Microbiome, of Hunter-Gatherers. Grace Douglas, PhD Lead Scientist in Genomics and Probiotic Functional Foods at NASA will talk on What NASA is learning about probiotics, microbiomes and space flight. Melanie Gareau, PhD at UC-Davis will share links between probiogenomics, early life programming in the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Sean Brady, PhD at Rockefeller University will give an exciting glimpse of probiotic biosensors in live cell signaling pathways. Linda Duffy, PhD Program Director for the NCCIH Probiotics and Microbiome portfolios will Chair the Session concluding with directions being addressed by the Trans-NIH Probiotics Microbiome WorkGroups and Omics Consortium and NIH/NCCIH research initiatives. Craig Hopp, PhD, DER Deputy Director will moderate the symposium and panel discussion.


Rationale: Why the topic is important and its relevance to the conference themes?
The probiotic concept that the gut flora can be modified and harmful microbes replaced with beneficial ones was introduced in 1907. Probiotics are naturally derived, orally ingested foods and drug products commonly used by the consumer public that have yielded many marketed products with somewhat equivocal evidence of health benefits. We gain our natural exposure to these beneficial microorganisms that comprise the Human Microbiome in two essential ways: (1) through our mothers and childbirth; and (2) from our environment and we are dependent on the microbes that inhabit our guts for essential physiologic, immunologic, and metabolic functions. With innovation technologies and emerging 3-D computational platforms available, exciting new evidence is accumulating from ancestral microbiomes identifying beneficial properties of keystone species and groups that may be evolving in low abundance but when they or selected genes are missing can lead to health consequences, chronic disease and inflammatory conditions typically observed in western lifestyles.

The ongoing efforts of the Trans-NIH Probiotic/Prebiotic Omics Consortium coupled with the long-standing NIH Human Microbiome Project to rigorously substantiate a probiotic rationale for use and guide new research directions have significantly contributed to rapid advances in our understanding and development of molecular footprints that deserve much more investigation. The convergence of new strategies, including the targeting of keystone species and groups in probiogenomics and microbiome collections are at a critical juncture requiring that rigorously validated mechanistic discoveries are further translatable to more accelerated clinical research. Essential for this transition is a diversity of thinking (systems biology, metabolism, microbiology, physiology and immunology) and standards for multi-omic and innovation technologies and models. The Symposium session seeks to broaden the base of what defines the current search for keystone group membership in probiotics and microbiome studies by inviting investigators to share their vision, approach and results to enhance understanding of signaling pathways and underlying mechanisms of probiotic action. 


Objectives: What participants will know or be able to do as a result of this session?
The Symposium aims to: (1) introduce the intriguing search for keystone ancestral groups of probiotics, and their genes, challenges in the search, and how findings will benefit designer probiotics and their genes in the future; (2) stimulate interest among junior and senior investigators relevant to advancing next-generation probiotics and microbiome studies; and (3) foster new collaborative, multidisciplinary probiotic, genomic, and microbiome research that advances basic, translational, and clinical research programs.

Methods/Session Format

Topic outline: Main points of the session

Methods/Session Format: Indicate amount of time to be allocated to each speaker or element of the program. Describe the format of the session.

Total: 75 minutes
(1) Dr. Margherita Cantorna  – 10 minutes and 5 minutes for Q&A
(2) Dr. Grace Douglas – 10 minutes and 5 minutes for Q&A
(3) Dr. Melanie Gareau - 10 minutes and 5 minutes for Q&A
(4) Dr. Sean Brady – 10 minutes and 5 minutes for Q&A
Session Moderator: Dr. Linda Duffy – 5 minute for take-home points on theme and 5 minutes open discussion
Dr. Craig Hopp – time and Moderator for Session Q&A and open discussion


Topic outline: Main points of the session

Submission Topic(s):

  • Research
    • State of the science/evidence base for integrative modalities
    • Natural products/botanicals/supplements