In a paper published in Ecological Monographs, Professors MA Zhanshan (also known as Sam Ma) from Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Aaron M. Ellison (Harvard University) presented a new way of analyzing networks of interacting organisms, which provides a powerful framework and supporting approaches for investigating the ecology and etiology of human microbiome associated diseases and offers supports for developingpersonalized medicine.
By focusing on the relationship between the number of species in the network (its “diversity”) and the stability of the network itself, MA and Ellison provide a new way of thinking about a classic ecological problem (the relationship between species diversity and the stability of an ecosystem).
The relevance and immediate application of MA and Ellison’s approach is a clearer understanding of the description and progress of infectious diseases. Many common diseases, including periodontitis, bacterial vaginosis, inflammatory bowel disease, gout, and depression are associated with changes in the diversity and stability of our own microbial ecosystem – the “microbiome.”
In the paper, they applied their analytical method to data from the Human Microbiome Project to provide new insights into the medical ecology and etiology of bacterial vaginosis and a potentially better index for distinguishing between healthy and diseased microbiomes.
MA and Ellison conclude that differences among individuals in the expression of diseases associated with instability of the microbiome will require intensive application of personalized medicine: treatments tailored to the unique microbiome of every person.