Article | February 12, 2020
In our lab, we focus on the impact of the gut microbiome on human health and disease. To evaluate this relationship, it’s important to understand the particular functions that different bacteria have. As bacteria are able to exchange, duplicate, and rearrange their genes in ways that directly affect their phenotypes, complete bacterial genomes assembled directly from human samples are essential to understand the strain variation and potential functions of the bacteria we host. Advances in the microbiome space have allowed for the de novo assembly of microbial genomes directly from metagenomes via short-read sequencing, assembly of reads into contigs, and binning of contigs into putative genome drafts. This is advantageous because it allows us to discover microbes without culturing them, directly from human samples and without reference databases. In the past year, there have been a number of tour de force efforts to broadly characterize the human gut microbiota through the creation of such metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs)[1–4]. These works have produced hundreds of thousands of microbial genomes that vastly increase our understanding of the human gut. However, challenges in the assembly of short reads has limited our ability to correctly assemble repeated genomic elements and place them into genomic context. Thus, existing MAGs are often fragmented and do not include mobile genetic elements, 16S rRNA sequences, and other elements that are repeated or have high identity within and across bacterial genomes.
Article | March 18, 2020
Scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania discovered early on in each cell, FoxA2 simultaneously binds to both the chromosomal proteins and the DNA, opening the flood gates for gene activation. The discovery, “Gene network transitions in embryos depend upon interactions between a pioneer transcription factor and core histones,” published in Nature Genetics, helps untangle mysteries of how embryonic stem cells develop into organs, according to the researchers. “Gene network transitions in embryos and other fate-changing contexts involve combinations of transcription factors. A subset of fate-changing transcription factors act as pioneers; they scan and target nucleosomal DNA and initiate cooperative events that can open the local chromatin. However, a gap has remained in understanding how molecular interactions with the nucleosome contribute to the chromatin-opening phenomenon,” write the investigators.
Article | February 18, 2020
The Bioprocessing 4.0 concept seeks to apply automation and technology to the digital transformation of biologics manufacturing. As the paradigm moves forward, it faces barriers to its adoption, according to Eric Langer, president of BioPlan Associates. “Perhaps the greatest challenges involve unsecured links and adapting the applications to areas where automation is critically needed today,” says Langer. “Unresolved security issues could seriously affect a company’s data in a regulated environment, so they will need to have iron-clad anti-hacking protection in place. Unfortunately, cyber security is not yet a top focus for the industry.”
Article | February 24, 2020
The year 2020 marks a decade since the term pharmacomicrobiomics was coined (Rizkallah et al., 2010) to crystallize a century-old concept of mutual interactions between humans, drugs, and the microbial world. The human microbiome, with its immense metabolic potential that exceeds and expands the human metabolic capacities, has the ability to modulate pharmacotherapy by affecting both pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drug molecules: