New Insights into the Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors that Shape the Human Skin Microbiome
This week we profile a recent publication in mBio from Dr. Pedro Dimitriu (pictured) at UBC and Microbiome Insights, Inc.
Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?
Microbiome Insights, Inc. is a Vancouver-based contract research organization that offers end-to-end services for microbiome DNA sequencing, including bioinformatic analysis; in short, we use microbial ecology and genomics tools to help researchers distill the complexity of the microbiome. Co-founded by UBC professors Bill Mohn and Brett Finlay, one of the company’s key purposes is to redefine human health through a microbiome science lens. Since being founded in 2015, the company has tested samples from over 200 studies. Because our scientific team has broad expertise in environmental microbiology, we are comfortable with a diverse array of microbiome-centric projects. For instance, we have worked with researchers interested in understanding how root-associated microbes respond to fertilizer treatments, or how different diets impact the gut microbiomes and health outcomes of mice. This mBio paper is the result of a partnership with Amway, specifically devised to help them articulate their vision to incorporate microbiome science into the realm of skin health and beauty.
What is the significance of the findings in this publication?
Many studies have shown that body site and inter-personal differences shape the composition of the human skin microbiome, but we still have a poor understanding of how extrinsic (e.g., lifestyle) and intrinsic (e.g., age) factors influence its composition. By integrating several host factors and microbiome information, we showed that the skin microbiome of an average North American population is predominantly shaped by demographic, lifestyle, and physiological factors. We also discovered reproducible associations between chronological age, skin aging, and members of the genus Corynebacterium, a common and incredibly diverse skin bacterium. The study is significant partly because of its size: around 2500 samples from different skin sites, and the mouth, were collected. While the logistics and execution of the project were challenging, large-scale studies are often needed to tease apart the important factors that influence the skin microbiome and its critical role in skin health.