The Human Microbiome and Health Effects of Prenatal Microbiome Exposures

May 24, 2016
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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In 2008, the National Institutes of Health launched the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), an eight-year, trans-NIH Common Fund Initiative to create a toolbox of resources for this emerging field and to better understand how the human microbiome is associated with human health and disease. Now in its final year, HMP researchers are evaluating the knowledge they have accrued and what areas of research they hope to prioritize next. One area of particular interest is how endogenous and exogenous microbiome exposures during fetal development can impact not only birth and early life health outcomes, but later life health conditions as well.

On this call, Dr. Lita Proctor, Program Director of the Human Microbiome Project, provided an overview of the HMP and the research findings to date. Dr. Michelle Wright, currently based at Yale University, discussed her findings from an integrative review of human research studies focused on the prenatal (antenatal) microbiome and the importance of the vaginal microbiome during birth. Recent research indicates there are sensitive time points and body sites that are important mediators of short- and long-term health outcomes in children.

Featured Speakers

Lita M. Proctor, PhD, is the Program Director of the Human Microbiome Project and is responsible for the coordination of the HMP effort. She has served as Program Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Geosciences and the Biosciences Directorates, where she managed microbiological, bioinformatics and research resources programs. She is formally trained in microbial ecology, was a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Fellow in molecular microbial genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, and has held appointments at Florida State University and at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Michelle Wright, PhD, RN, is a Postdoctoral Associate currently based at Yale University, with clinical experience in emergency and neonatal intensive care units. She received her master’s degree in Nursing from DePaul University and doctoral degree from the University of North Dakota. She has completed additional coursework in genetics at the National Institutes of Health, statistical genetics at the University of Washington, perinatal biology for translational research from the University of Texas, and human teratogens from Harvard University. Dr. Wright has also completed a postdoctoral fellowship and Virginia Commonwealth University studying methods for evaluating DNA methylation and microbiome data. Her research interests are centered on investigating relationships among environmental exposures and genomic factors to determine how they contribute to health outcomes in human populations.

The call was moderated by Elise Miller, MEd, CHE's director. The call lasted one hour and was recorded.