Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Everything about human microbiome
Mains level: Read the attached story
- From November 19 to 22, Pune hosted an international conference on microbiome research- a field of study that is still in its infancy in India.
- That could be set to change, with a proposed project that would study and map the human microbiome across the country.
What is human microbiome?
- The human body carries diverse communities of microorganisms, which are mainly bacterial. These are referred to as “human microbiome”.
- These organisms play a key role in many aspects of host physiology, ranging from metabolism of otherwise complex indigestible carbohydrates and fats to producing essential vitamins.
- Not all microbiomes are harmful. They help maintaining immune systems and acts as a first line of defense against pathogens.
Scope for Research
- Research on the human microbiome has thrown light on various aspects how different parts of the human body are occupied by characteristic microbial communities.
- It throws light on how various factors contribute in shaping the composition of the microbiome, including the genetics, dietary habits, age, geographic location and ethnicity.
- These studies laid a strong foundation to decipher the microbiome’s implications on health and a wide range of diseases.
Indian Microbiomes are Unique
- Scientists at NCSS have conducted a meta-analysis on intestinal microbiota (community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms) of healthy Indian individuals and compared it with that of individuals from other parts of the world.
- It shows that the Indian population harbours a distinct gut microbial community, which, scientists calls for an in-depth investigation of the Indian microbiome.
Need for Research
- India has a large number of tribal populations largely unaffected by “modern” diet and lifestyle.
- India provides for a wide range of research with more than 4,500 ethnic groups and presence of two global biodiversity hotspots (Himalayan range and Western Ghats).
- The prevalence of lifestyle-related disorders such as obesity and diabetes has been known to be significantly lower compared to the non-tribal (urbanized) populations across the globe.
- Hence, scientists say, a study on the tribal population would help improve knowledge of evolution of the mutualism between gut microbiota and the host.
A country-wide project in making
- Various research groups in the country are working on the human microbiome.
- What India lacks is a national microbiome initiative similar to those in other countries.
- Now, a high-level committee at the Department of Biotechnology has shown a keen interest in the proposed project.
- The project will include collection of saliva, stool and skin swabs of 20,000 Indians across various ethnic groups from different geographical regions.