Japan Health Research Promotion Bureau

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Establishment of the cross-disease intestinal environment research infrastructure based on the unified analysis method


In recent years, new technologies previously thought impossible are taking the life sciences by storm. One such technology is the development of next-generation sequencers. Sequencing is the analysis of DNA sequences of genes. Various microorganisms (bacteria, etc.) coexist in the intestinal tract. Conventionally, it was necessary to culture these microorganisms and propagate them, but many microorganisms are difficult to culture, making it challenging to identify microorganisms. By extracting whole genes from a population of microorganisms and sequencing the genes that comprise them, without going through the process of culture, we can clarify the composition of the microorganisms and elucidate the changes in these microorganisms. The analysis of their interactions with the environment is called "metagenome analysis." This metagenomic analysis reveals the entire intestinal microflora (intestinal flora) landscape.

The role of intestinal flora in various diseases is being clarified. For example, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease) and colorectal cancer have been shown to be significantly affected by intestinal flora. In addition, intestinal flora has also been implicated in rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, which are unrelated to the colon.

However, the collection of samples (stool), extraction of DNA from stool, sequencing analysis, and interpretation of the analysis data differ among research facilities, resulting in different results even for the same sample (stool)-derived analysis.

In this study, the analysis will be conducted using the optimal metagenomic analysis method (standard protocol) recently announced from Japan to decipher the analysis data of intestinal flora of various patients through collaboration among six national centers (6NCs) and develop the data into diagnostic and therapeutic applications based on the intestinal flora. This research will utilize the high expertise of the 6NC to conduct sample collection, metagenomic analysis, and data analysis using standard protocols to clarify the intestinal environment across organs and diseases.

It may be possible to find out that diseases that were previously considered different diseases due to the different organs in which the diseases develop are caused by the same cause from the perspective of intestinal flora. If so, the same medication could be effective and provide a new treatment option.