About Microbes and Microbiomes
Microbes are often imagined as pathogens, drug-resistant superbugs, toxin-contaminated water supplies, and biofouling organisms.
However, we now realize that there are many beneficial microbes that live in or on us, and it is these native ‘commensal’ microbes that drive much of what we think of as being human.
Specifically, there are more microbial cells than human cells in our body (and 100 times more microbial genes!), and this collection of microbes – your microbiome – is increasingly being recognized to control our food cravings, obesity, behavior, aging, and susceptibility to disease.
Beyond humans, microbes are now known to control the nutrient and energy cycles that run ocean and soil ecosystems and the planet at large.
Though less studied, viruses also modulate these microbial impacts via killing, transferring niche-defining genes (e.g., antibiotic resistance), and reprogramming.
This emergent field, Microbiome Science, is intensively interdisciplinary, leverages many OSU areas of excellence, and is already transforming the life sciences and our understanding of the rules of life.
Our mission is to empower microbiome science for the design and prediction of microbial communities in animal, plant, human, environmental, and engineered systems.
In 2013, a small group of faculty at Ohio State University began organizing around the study of microbial communities across environments and within animal and human hosts. In 2017, this science gained more formal recognition on campus with the establishment of the Microbial Communities Thematic Program as part of Infectious Diseases Institute.
Built on the early efforts and energy of many individuals across campus, The Center of Microbiome Science (CoMS) was launched in 2020 and also became part of the Microbiome Centers Consortium.
CoMS is a highly interdisciplinary network of investigators at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital representing over 84 faculty from 9 different colleges.
The three focus areas of CoMS are:
This includes building community within and between investigators in microbiome science, enabling investigators to perform microbiome studies by building out molecular and bioinformatic tools on campus, and providing trainee education and opportunities to gain high-tech digital skills in computational microbiology and bioinformatics.
To date, CoMS efforts have resulted in support for multi-million-dollar microbiome and institute grants, the development of a five course Microbiome Training Track for graduate students; the establishment of microbiome, virome, and advanced ecological statistics working groups; multiple ideation, networking and training workshops and symposia around microbiome sciences; and the launch of a suite of advanced bioinformatic tools (MAVERICs – Microbial and Viral Ecological Research in Columbus Informatics) for metagenome and virome analysis freely available at the Ohio Supercomputer Center.