To gain insight into the exciting new science of microbiome, esteemed guests attended the Microbiome Charity Gala Dinner held on 29 June 2017 by the National University of Singapore (NUS) to hear world-renowned microbiologist, biochemist, marine biologist and TED Talk expert speaker Professor Jack Gilbert clear up modern society’s misunderstanding about dirt.
“Getting dirty has its benefits,” declares the visiting Yeoh Ghim Seng Professor of Surgery at the NUS Department of Surgery. Prof Gilbert has done extensive research work on the ecology, evolution, and the metabolic dynamics of microbial ecosystems from different environments.
The human microbiome is a collection of microbes – bacteria, viruses and fungi inhabiting the human body. The combined activity of all the tiny organisms inside our bodies and the surrounding environment have an enormous impact on our health and well-being.
“The bacterial cells in our body actually outnumber the human cells. Although bacteria are commonly associated with infections, they play an important role in our immunity system, brain health, and even emotional well-being,” Prof Gilbert shares.
An imbalance of these community of tiny organisms found in our bodies – or microbiome – have shown to have implications on many diseases affecting the young and old. From diabetes, heart disease and dementia to food allergies, asthma and autism, the human microbiome is intricately linked to our health and wellness.
“Children growing up in today’s urban environment, with parents who keep them as clean as possible, run a higher risk of developing eczema, asthma and allergies,” Prof Gilbert reveals.
Discoveries on how the microbiome works and can be used are already shaking up the world of medicine. These new learnings are also changing behaviours in society.
Chairing the event is leading heart surgeon and the Abu Rauff Professor in Surgery Professor CN Lee, who is also the Clinical Director of the Biomedical Institute for Global Health Research and Technology. Together with Associate Professor David Lai, Director of Surgical Research and Development at the NUS Department of Surgery, they highlighted that current studies on microbiome are focused on Caucasians and with talent and funding, there are opportunitie to do more research on Asians.
As Prof Gilbert puts it, “exciting times are ahead!”
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