ISB News

My Digital Gut: Making Nutrition and Healthcare Personalized, Predictive, and Preventive

ISB Associate Professor Dr. Sean Gibbons delivered a Research Roundtable presentation and highlighted human gut microbiome research being conducted in his lab, including the development of a new tool called My Digital Gut. Watch his presentation by clicking play on the video above. 

The human microbiome – the trillions of microbial cells that live on and in our bodies – is unique to everyone. Even identical twins have microbiome compositions that differ widely. 

ISB Associate Professor Dr. Sean Gibbons has spent the past few years looking at how individuals respond differently to foods and exploring how we can leverage what we know about the microbiome to predict that variation. 

In 2020, the Gibbons Lab released a state-of-the-art software platform called MICOM (a portmanteau of MIcroobial COMmunities), allowing researchers to build metabolic networks for a specific person.  

MICOM models are initialized by data on an individual’s microbiome composition and dietary intake. Researchers can then take a person’s model (i.e., a digital twin of their gut microbiome) and simulate how adding probiotic organisms or changing dietary inputs (broccoli, bananas, prebiotic supplements, etc.) might impact the metabolic output of their microbiota. 

Worldwide, many microbiome researchers have adopted MICOM as a research tool. MICOM has been downloaded more than 300,000 times, cited over 140 times in scientific publications, and enables researchers to run in silico experiments that would be nearly impossible to conduct in the lab. 

The Gibbons Lab and collaborators have used MICOM in several projects that have yielded interesting and novel discoveries, including:

  • Predicting if a pathogen or probiotic will “stick” in an individual’s gut,
  • Finding that short-chain fatty acid (a molecular byproduct from microbiota consuming dietary fiber) production varies widely across people with the same diets, and 
  • Determining that individuals who produce higher levels of butyrate, a type of SCFA, are more likely to lower their blood pressure when adding a specific fermentable fiber supplement to their diet, and
  • Applying a precision nutrition approach to a large population to determine how individuals will respond to different diets. 

Today, Gibbons is building a new precision nutrition platform called My Digital Gut. My Digital Gut will be powered by MICOM and leverage the gut microbiome to make nutrition and healthcare personalized, predictive, and preventive. Once optimized and rigorously validated in clinical trials, Gibbons sees My Digital Gut as an essential tool that enables a new class of life-changing precision interventions.

Gibbons talked about all this and more during an ISB Research Roundtable presentation. You can watch his talk here, or by clicking play on the video above. 

Learn how to become a My Digital Gut beta tester by emailing ISB Development Director Erika Kreger.

Video Transcript

Below is the video transcript of Sean Gibbons’ presentation and his Q&A conversation with Nitin Baliga.

Nitin Baliga:

Most of you have heard from news outlets that the human gut microbiome is an absolutely fascinating new dimension of human biology. It turns out there’s probably more cells that are microbial than our own in our bodies. So it really begs the question of what does it mean to be human? And this is a relatively new area of study and it’s of great interest to scientists because the microbiome has been associated with all kinds of health and disease. Sean is a leader in this field, and you are going to enjoy this presentation from Sean. So without taking any more time, it’s my pleasure to hand this over to Sean.

 

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