Caister Academic Press

Functional metagenomics and systems biology: understanding the human organismal complexity in disease and health

Liping Zhao and Jian Shen
from: Metagenomics: Current Innovations and Future Trends (Edited by: Diana Marco). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2011)


A devastating epidemic of chronic diseases is threatening the public health worldwide. Preventive healthcare systems require novel types of health assessment technologies which focus on the early warning biomarkers before the clinical onset of chronic diseases. In light of the systems theory, emergent functions of the human body should be measured for health evaluation. Humans are superorganisms harbouring two integrated genomes, the human genome and the microbiome which is the collective genomes of all symbiotic microorganisms, particularly those inhabiting the gut. The gut microbiota and the host interact intimately. The structure and functions of the gut microbiota, together with the host metabolism as reflected in urine metabolite profiles, are the emergent functions of the human body. Metagenomics and metabonomics can be used to monitor the dynamics of gut microbiota and host metabolism. Large scale cohort studies in which urine and faecal samples are analyzed by the whole body systems approaches may lead to the discovery of patterns of gut microbiota and host metabotypes which can in turn be used as a biomarker for diagnosis or target for developing new therapeutics for chronic diseases. The application of these systems approaches in traditional Chinese medicine and nutritional studies may lead to a significant paradigm shift in modern medicine and nutritional sciences read more ...
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