As we've previously written about on Scope, microbe hunters are using a host of new technologies to discern the origin of specific diseases and gain insight into how the sea of microbes that live in and on our bodies may influence our health. Now a group of researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany have created a social network, called MyMicrobes, that pairs individuals based on their intestinal bacteria, allows users to discuss their digestive health and could serve as a large-scale, open scientific study on gut flora.
The idea is to connect people with similar intestinal bacteria so that they can share their diets and personal anecdotes, helping both the participants and the researchers to better understand which types of gut flora react positively or negatively to which types of foods.
The success of such an endeavor admittedly relies on a large number of study participants (or social networkers) to yield reliable results, and a large number of people could presumably be very interested in sequencing their own gut bacteria to learn more. Unfortunately, the fee for said sequencing is $2,100--an amount that could keep an already unusual network pretty niche.
Bork told Nature that some 120 people have registered, but not nearly as many have returned their gut samples: "It requires a critical number of participants. Just like competitors of Facebook, we might fail to get that critical mass."
Previously: The dawn of a new era in microbiology, Study shows intestinal microbes may fall into three distinct categories, The future of probiotics, Study offers new insights into link between oral hygiene and heart health and Your bacterial birthday suit reveals the mode of your birth