The gut microbiota is now widely considered to be an organ of the body, albeit one that is invisible to the human eye. Key to many aspects of human health, including digestive health and immune and metabolic traits, the huge community of microorganisms residing in the gastrointestinal tract helps break down fiber and polyphenols from plant foods that cannot otherwise be digested; provides essential nutrients (e.g., fatty acids and vitamins); and trains the immune system to better defend against external insults.
As part of the effort to understand the many health-related aspects affected by the gut microbiota, a new collaborative project called Le French Gut, which is part of the international “Million Microbiome of Humans Project”, has just been launched in France on September 15, 2022.
Le French Gut project has been created to gain a better understanding of the gut microbiota in healthy adults and predict how changes in its composition are linked to chronic diseases, from digestive to neurological conditions. The initiative was launched by France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) in collaboration with the Public Assistance – hospitals of Paris (AP-HP) and involves two other public institutions and 11 private partners.
According to Joël Doré, scientific coordinator of the Le French Gut project: “We humans are microbial, we are ecosystems and human-microbes symbiosis. An extensive reference of microbiomes from our french fellow citizens is really key to advance science in a field that will prepare the future of preventive nutrition and precision medicine of the microbial human. This will help design new diagnostic tools and innovative treatments for the many conditions that we have seen rising in incidence, uncontrolled, for nearly 3 generations.”
The new project is the French contribution to the wider “Million Microbiome of Humans Project” (MMHP), which brings together leading research institutes from across the world. The MMHP’s goal is to build the world’s largest open science database of human microbiota from different body sites, to which Le French Gut is aiming to contribute 100,000 fecal microbiota samples from France.
As for the MMHP’s wider goals, the project is focusing on mapping the microbiota from different body sites; modelling and predicting changes in the human microbiota linked to chronic diseases common in industrialized countries; and describing variations of the human microbiota associated with different diseases. That way, the MMHP can contribute to developing personalized therapeutic solutions for chronic diseases that modern medicine cannot treat.
“The MMHP is open to any scientist who would like to accelerate the exploration of the human microbiome at a larger scale for any particular human ecosystem, geographical region or disease. The consortium will provide sequencing resources and expert recommendation on sample treatment and analysis to help scientists explore their different ecosystems. Ultimately, it will help defining functional microbial biomarkers that could be used to better understand a disease and potentially improve its’ diagnostic and treatment in the future”, says Mathieu Almeida, INRAE MetaGenoPolis data scientist researcher, responsible for metagenomic analysis of Le French Gut and member of the MMHP consortium.
Find out more about Le French Gut and, if you live in France, take part in the project: https://lefrenchgut.fr/