uBiome is launching the “world’s first” dental citizen science crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo two years after it made history with a record-breaking campaign to sequence the human microbiome. Raising over $350,000 from over 2,500 participants in 2013, the biotech startup sparked the era of microbiome-based personalized medicine — engaging with the public to provide easily accessible information about their own bodies using the latest in high-throughput DNA sequencing technology.
Dr. Jeremy Horst, DDS, PhD will be leading the study. Dr. Horst has a clinical practice in the Bay Area and is involved in intensive research at UCSF, focusing on dental caries and genome-wide computational drug discovery techniques. He is a rare combination of practicing dentist and PhD bioinformatician, and aims to highlight the importance of dental research in patient care using uBiome technology.
“We are all frustrated by our inability to predict and prevent dental disease. We need better tools to help us track the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease and help educate our patients.”
uBiome provides participants with a catalog of their own microbes related to their dental microbiome through a self-collected sample that is then processed in uBiome’s state-of-the-art laboratory in San Francisco. The service details the microbial composition of the teeth, explains what is known about each type of microbe, and relates the participant’s microbiome information to the latest scientific research on the role of the microbiome in health, diet and lifestyle.
Co-founder and CEO of uBiome, Jessica Richman explained:
“This new dental micro biome research is being done in collaboration with a team of dental experts, and most importantly, with the public. We’re launching this study on Indiegogo so that everyone can participate in citizen science. We hope this data proves valuable for dentists and anyone curious about the health of their teeth and gums.”
The human body is composed of 10 trillion human cells, but there are ten times as many microbial cells as human cells – the 100 trillion that together form the microbiome. These microbes are not harmful, but rather are co-evolved symbiants, essential collaborators in our physiology. Like the rainforest, the healthy human microbiome is a balanced ecosystem. The latest research suggests that the correct balance of microbes serves to keep potential pathogens in check and regulate the immune system. Microbes also perform essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins.
Recent research has indicated the dental microbiota as a potentially predictive model of oral diseases. Cavities develop as a direct result of an imbalance in an otherwise-stable, oral microbiome and initiation of Periodontal disease and tooth decay is marked by a decrease in the complexity of the microbiome. The oral microbiome has also been linked to many diseases including neurodegeneration in glaucoma, pediatric inflammatory bowel disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease through inflammatory processes related to periodontal disease.
Scientific research in the 21st century has seen great strides in collaborative practices, with “citizen science” allowing professional scientists and amateurs to collaborate on large-scale research questions. According to Dr. Zachary Apte, CTO and co-founder of uBiome:
“We want to make the science available to everyone. Now, anyone can have their dental microbiome sequenced and understand what it means.”
In contrast to immutable human genome, the microbiome, has the potential to be modified through simple means such as targeted antibiotics, healthful probiotics, diet and other lifestyle interventions. Thus, the microbiome may provide some of the most important medical breakthroughs of our era. uBiome ultimately aims to empower participants to manage their microbiomes to improve their health. By joining uBiome, citizen scientists can explore their own microbiome and be partners in the process of scientific discovery.
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