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Researchers near replicating carbon reduction process in nature

Researchers found that enzymes from certain bacteria in the soil turns carbon dioxide in the air into carbon molecules, a process that helps reduce the carbon footprint which drives climate change.

An international consortium of university researchers including Stanford’s Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have figured out a way to potentially artificially duplicate the process in lab, according to an April 29 2022 report by Glennda Chui of the Stanford National Accelerator Lab. 

The process known as carbon fixing, is the key component in photosynthesis. But instead of a 20 times slower process in plants, the soil bacteria, Kitasatospora setae, relies on enzymes called Rubisco. Researchers also found it can also produce antibiotics, according to Chui’s article quoting Soichi Wakatsuki, a professor at SLAC and Stanford.

The next step will be to build on an enhanced version of the artificial process. 

https://www6.slac.stanford.edu/news/2022-04-29-how-soil-microbe-could-rev-artificial-photosynthesis.aspx

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Diabetes and Weight

Research has found a connection with the prominent presence of certain microbes and diabetes. Though they differ from one to another, a person with diabetes is more likely to have a certain suite of microbes than a person without diabetes. A recent Popular Science article (“Scientists want to turn our gut bacteria into medicine”, August 31, 2017 by Claire Maldarelli) referred to this connection of gut microbiomes and diabetes.

Researchers at Rockefeller University were able to isolate N-acil amides with GPR119, which helps control blood sugar in mice. Mice that received N-acil amides had significantly better glucose metabolism than those that didn’t. A person with diabetes is more likely to have this certain suite of microbes than a person without diabetes, for example. But the mechanisms of this bacterial influence are still pretty mysterious. (Source: “ Scientists want to Turn our Gut Bacteria into Medicine,” Popular Science, Claire Maldarelli, Aug. 31, 2017).

Fermented foods and gut health.

Production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), especially butyrate, in the
gut microbiome is required for optimal health but is frequently limited by the lack
of fermentable fiber in the diet. Shortchain fatty acids are produced by the friendly bacteria in your gut and are believed to play an important role in health and disease risk. They may reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and other conditions.

Researchers at the Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, attempted to increase butyrate production by supplementing the diets of 174 healthy young adults for 2 weeks with resistant starch from potatoes (RPS), resistant starch from maize (RMS), inulin from chicory
root, or an accessible corn starch control. RPS resulted in the greatest increase in to-
tal SCFAs, including butyrate. (By Nielson Baxter, January- February 2019 edition, mBio / American Society of Microbiology). Although the majority of microbiomes responded to RPS with increases in the relative abundance of bifidobacteria, those that responded with an increase in Ruminococcus bromii or Clostridium chartatabidum were more likely to yield higher butyrate concentrations. RMS and inulin induced different changes in fecal communities, but they did not generate significant increases in fecal butyrate levels. These results reveal that not all fermentable fibers are equally capable of stimulating SCFA production, and they highlight the differences between the individual’s microbiota in determining whether or not they respond to a specific dietary supplement.

Diet and Nutrition

Bacteria called microglia can trigger inflammation in the brain and elsewhere to restore balance. The immune system works “to repair tissues”. It also affects weight loss or gain. This is based on a study led by endocrinologist and neurologist Joshua Thaler at the University of Washington, Seattle. In testing mice, Thaler was able to prove that microglia in mice can influence the mice’s bodyweight. Mice that eat a high-fat diet inflames an area of the brain called the hypothalamus which regulates how much a mice and humans eat. When mice consume a high-fat diet the hypothalamus triggered an influx of microglia immune cells from as far away as the mouse’s bone marrow which increased inflammation and then weight gain. In August 2017, Washington University School of Medicine conducted another mice study that connected the relationship between certain gut bacteria and the common flu, as reported by Gretchen Lidicker of Mindbodygreen.com.

Japan has long held the position that the key to one’s health is proper diet and nutrition, which for the past few decades has been regarded the world’s healthiest country, according to World Health Organization metrics such as world’s highest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality. Despite these indicators over decades, Japan health care spending per capita remains far below those of the west, especially the United States. Proper diet and nutrition by itself can fight off the chronic diseases to which most people are susceptible, and argument that comes from a number of Asian health care traditions. Viome is ceasing upon a growing amount of data and research that points toward the critical role microorganisms play in our individual health. The aforementioned research at MIT, UCLA, UCSF, Harvard, Rockefeller University, to name a few, back these claims with substantive research around different health issues.

You do have doubters, but most agree with the premise that better diet and nutrition leads to a healthier life. As quoted from a recent INC Magazine article (“A Space Entrepreneur has Launched Another Moonshot Venture . . . by Kevin Ryan, May 24, 2017), “If, for example, you follow 1,000 people who have a healthy lifestyle and 1,000 who don’t,” says Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “without question there will be many more chronic diseases that develop in the 1,000 who don’t have a healthy lifestyle. But we have limited ability to predict specifically who will or will not develop diseases,” according to Dr. Giovannucci. Giovannucci does agrees that healthy dieting generally leads to better health and fewer chronic conditions.

The bacteria inside our guts—which collectively make up the so-called gut microbiome—are incredibly diverse, with countless species and strains. But they also differ depending on the individual, with one person’s microbiome having little to do with another’s.

Mind- Body Connection

Mind- Body Connection

The history of modern medicine in the U.S. and Europe had a defining moment in the 17thCentury led by Rene Descartes. The “Cartesian duality” of mind and body stated that the mind and body are independently functioning parts. Today, we can no longer assume this traditional western belief that the brain and body are independently functioning. Not only do we know the mind and body are intimately interconnected, but they are immersively interdependent, constantly communicating, and working collaboratively together. Scientific communities all over the world are delving deeper into researching the intricacies and connections between the mind and body.

It is striking how the holistic health traditions of Asia seem to parallel modern innovative Ai driven health care pursuits. This includes data driven, microbial gut research, food- based solutions, and preventive holistic health care to support a healthy mind and body.

The Brain- Gut Connection”

The way we look at the brain and brain research has completely flipped on its head since a few decades ago when scientists first discovered that “messenger molecules” for the brain were circulating throughout the body in the bloodstream. None are more pervasive and penetrating than what scientists have found in the activities of microbiomes of the gut. Our bodies have more microbiome DNA than human DNA. The total human genome comprises around 20,000 genes, while the total microbiome DNA in our bodies total two to 20 million genes.

“Every cell is eavesdropping on the brain’s activity, sending and receiving messages identical to those that the brain processes,” says Deepak Chopra and contributing author Naveen Jain in their Huffington Post article “Will the Gut-Brain Connection Revolutionize Wellness?” (September 11, 2017). In this article, Chopra goes so far as to say that all the common experiences we have are indicators of the brain’s connection to the gut — “getting butterflies in your stomach when you feel nervous, overeating when you feel anxious, feeling dull and sluggish after taking an antibiotic, contracting stomach cramps before a competitive challenge, experiencing nausea or stomach upset from taking antidepressants.” Every major organ in the body from the heart to the stomach and liver combine to possess hundreds of millions of neurons with corresponding DNA, which again collectively makes up the “enteric nervous system”.

The bacteria inside our guts, microbiomes, include unlimited numbers of species and strains. They differ from person to person with limited or no relationship from person to person.” The known “messenger molecules” associated with the brain that circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream even produce neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals our brain uses to communicate with the rest of the body.  Every cell is eavesdropping on the brain’s activity, sending and receiving messages identical to those that the brain processes.

Scientists have found that differences in a person’s gut can be a clue to our specific health propensities, to cancers, but also something as immediate as our daily mood, behaviors, even happiness. For example, 90% of the well-known serotonin neurotransmitter is made in the body’s digestive tract, according to a 2015 report by CalTech (“Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut”, April 09, 2015). Serotonin is the chemical often referred to as the “happy chemical” and the balance of serotonin in our body influences our mood. A deficiency of serotonin can lead to depression.

Research is being administered about the influence of gut microbiomes on everything from autism, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease and brain health to cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes and weight loss. It has become widespread as major research institutions and universities are conducting studies on the subject.

“100 Trillion Bacteria!”

The gut microbiome is a vast ecosystem of organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and protozoans that live in our digestive pipes, which collectively weigh up to 2kg (heavier than the average brain), according to Amy Fleming, who wrote an article on gut microbiome and happiness in The Guardian (“Is your gut microbiome the key to health and happiness?by Amy Fleming, November 06, 2017). It is increasingly treated by scientists as an organ. Each gut contains about 100 trillion bacteria, many of which are vital, breaking down food and toxins, making vitamins and training our immune systems.

The DNA of these gut microbiomes are sophisticated and adaptable. They are able to take in pieces of DNA, then incorporate them into their genomes. These tiny microbes are a flexible learning machine that seeks out resources in its environment they ingest for useful purposes. The microbes undergo a trial and error process to solve all the problems, trying new proteins until it finds one that addresses its needs.

A “keystone species” microbe that resides in the human gut is the ruminococcus bromii. It is a dominant member of the suite of human gut microbiome that triggers energy and it digests resistant starches by breaking down and releasing enzymes from these starches. The ruminococcus bromii primarily reside in the colon. The function of it as a keystone species enables the proper functioning of other downline microbial activity, much in the same way that the presence of wolves in Yellowstone Park is a keystone species to maintain a balance in the park’s ecosystem.

An article in The Guardian, “Gut bacteria regulate nerve fibre insulation” (Mo Costandi, April 05, 2016) claims that “alterations in our gut bacteria composition may be connected to a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression, and Parkinson’s Disease.” Psychosomatic Medicine reported that “various factors play a role (in PTSD), including a lack of social support and low levels of the neurotransmitter neuropeptide Y (see British Psychological Society blog, November 22, 2017).

Isolating Bacterial Strains

Thanks in large part to innovative entrepreneurs, microbial influences on our health is reaching new heights. What this means scientifically is that research is showing more than just propensities and patterns. It is able to isolate, using Ai, specific strains of bacteria that directly affect the neuro-degeneration of MS (multiple sclerosis) patients as one example of many.

A study conducted by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) found a connection between gut microbiomes and neuron-degeneration characterized by MS (September 11, 2017 Online Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In the study, postdoctoral UCSF researcher Egle Cekanaviciute, PhD, and collaborators found specific species of bacteria in the gut among 71 MS patients they analyzed that were not present in 71 healthy control subjects. The study found that Akkermansia muciniphila and Acinetobacter calcoaceticus—triggered human immune cells to become pro-inflammatory, while another found at lower than usual levels in MS patients — Parabacteroides distasonis—triggered immune-regulatory responses. Sergio Baranzini, PhD, a professor of neurology at UCSF explains in the article that “twins only share an MS diagnosis about 35 percent of the time.” Baranzini and Cekanaviciute’s studies took the research a step further, to identify the effects of specific microbiomes – the increased presence of ones that cause harmful effects versus the decreased presence of ones that are helpful – how they actually impact human health.

In research on mice done by MIT and the University of Massachusetts Medical School found similar impacts of identifiable microbial strains. Researchers found that the gut microbiome composition of the mother’s gut can influence whether maternal infection leads to autistic-like behaviors in offspring. They also discovered the specific brain changes that produce these behaviors. In a 2016 Science paper, Drs. Gloria Choi and her husband Jun Huh found that types of immune cells known as Th17 cells, and their effector molecule, called IL-17, are responsible for this effect in mice. IL-17 then interacts with receptors found on brain cells in the developing fetus, leading to irregularities that the researchers call “patches” in certain parts of the cortex known as the somatosensory cortex. When the researchers restored normal levels of brain activity in this area of the brain, they were able to reverse the behavioral abnormalities. They were also able to induce the behaviors in otherwise normal mice by over stimulating neurons in the somatosensory cortex.

The same MIT report also referred to a 2010 study that included all children born in Denmark between 1980 and 2005 found that severe viral infections during the first trimester of their mother’s pregnancy led to risk for autism by three times.

As mentioned, there is growing evidence that the microbiome in our gut contribute not only to various body and brain diseases, but also to our mood and behavior relevant to many psychiatric and neurological disorders (Microbiome Journal, August 25, 2017). In particular, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that manipulation of the gut microbiome modulates anxiety-like behaviours, and our response to fear. The neural circuits that underlie anxiety- and fear-related behaviours are complex and heavily depend on functional communication between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex (PFC). Research at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found a link between our stomach and a region of our brain that regulates mood and behavior, according IFLScience.com’s Robin Andrews (Source: “Our Gut Microbes Strongly Influence Our Emotional Behaviors,” IFL Science, July 4, 2017). The UCLA study was the first to link this connection within humans, based on the study of 40 healthy woman showing “brain-gut-microbial interactions in healthy humans”, according to the American Psychosomatic Society, affecting their mood and behaviors. Likewise, the Microbiome Journal reports that “transcriptional networks within the amygdala and PFC of Germ-Free mice are altered. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) act through translational repression to control gene translation and have been implicated in anxiety-like behaviours.” (See Microbiome Journal, August 25, 2017).

These results suggest that the microbiome is necessary for appropriate regulation of miRNA expression in brain regions implicated in anxiety-like behaviours.

The brain – microbial body connections seem endless, as the engine of microbial research redefines the health care industry.

Can Antidepressants suppress the health of your gut?

The short answers is yes. But there are remedies. If you want to maintain a healthy gut full of rich microbiome content while taking antidepressants, take desipramine or take a Ruminococcus flavefaciens supplement along with the antidepressant. . . . and maybe a healthy daily dose of your favorite probiotic. In addition to keeping a balanced gut when taking antidepressants, ruminococcus flavefaciens is essential to the digestion of cellulose.

There has been a held belief that antidepressants can suppress microbiome diversity. Research confirms this. Antidepressants do reduce the richness and increased diversity of gut bacteria. Except for desipramine, analyses of alpha diversity revealed that all antidepressants reduced the richness of microbial communities. (See Nature.com, Translation Psychiatry, April 09, 2019; Antidepressants affect gut microbiota and Ruminococcus flavefaciens is able to abolish their effects on depressive-like behavior. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-019-0466-x).

In addition to the effects of antidepressants on microbiota, microbiota may also effect depressive-like behaviors through influence on neurotransmitters, production of serotonin (the “happy” chemical), and other key molecules. Microbiota can produce neuroactive substances, including neurotransmitters, that may influence host physiology and behavior. Microbiota can also influence the production of serotonin by enterochromaffin cells in the host gut. Serotonin is primarily produced in the gut.

However, anti-depressive effects can be attenuated by simultaneous treatment with Ruminococcus flavefaciens. Abstracts from this study found that supplementing your use of antidepressants with R. flavefaciens, by affecting gene networks in the brain, can decrease depressive-like behavior.

Japanese Health Care Offers Private Sector Options

US-Japan Foundation/NCSL – Japanese Health Care for Elderly

Though published so along ago, I was cleaning out the basement storage the other day, and came upon my only printed copy of US-Japan Foundation/NCSL – Japanese Health Care for Elderly which was published by US-Japan Foundation and National Conference of State Legislatures (1990). I couldn’t find it anywhere. It has been referenced on a number of library websites, but no copy. I realized my co-author Dr. Bill Steslicke and I may have the only copies, along with a few die hard former legislators around the country, so here is a Word doc version. Noteworthy- 1) certain Japanese companies may form their own in-house HMO-style coverage and provisioning. 2) Japanese insurance covers eastern medicine, including but not limited to herbal remedies and acupuncture.

Ayurvedic – Asian medicine

Health care is one of those key global challenges facing this generation. The holistic approach to wellness that has prevailed for centuries in Asia is being explored in a much broader scale with advanced Ai (artificial intelligence), data science, and other technology by the scientific communities in the U.S. and elsewhere that were not available to previous generations.

Another part of modern health care’s “sea change” may very well be uncovering the ancient medical approaches of Asian traditions. Before going into the role of gut microbiome in our health, I’ll point out a perhaps coincidental connection with India’s health care tradition, Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic medicine is a 3,000 years old Indian holistic healing approach that depends on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit, to paraphrase WebMD.

Ayurveda proponents believe that your chances of getting sick — and the health issues you develop — are linked to the balance of your three doshas, each of which controls different body functions. The three doshas are Vata dosha (space and air); Pitta dosha (fire and water); and Kapha dosha (water and earth).

Where in principle Asian health care has fostered a holistic approach toward the mind and the body in this similar pattern, today’s modern science is making scientific connections and applications between them never before pursued, reinforcing that holistic approach. Not limited to Asia, western non-scientific traditions have also maintained some fascination on the periphery of mind-body science with dysbiosis, intestinal putrefaction, for example.

The inter-connectedness and interdependence of mind and body in modern health care is moving more mainstream. Today, we know that every major organ in the body from the heart to the stomach and liver combine to possess hundreds of millions of neurons with corresponding DNA, collectively referred to as the “enteric nervous system, all of which are constantly communicating with the brain”.

Ayurveda not only endorses the belief that the mind and body are intimately interconnected, it goes beyond mind and body to suggest we have interconnections with our environment and spirituality. According to Ayurveda, disease develops when we disconnect from nature and the five elements in nature and within our minds and bodies – earth, water, fire, air, and space. Likewise, Japanese health care evolving from the Shinto and Buddhist traditions seek to integrate our connection to nature with our physical and spiritual health, and recommend regular “Shinrinyoku”, or “bathing in the forest”. Ayurveda seeks to integrate the mind, body and spirit to promote health and wellness, as stated by the National Institute of Health. The Ayurvedic approach considers each individual’s unique needs for food and application, even lifestyle.

How does this apply to your own personal health? It supports the belief that the fundamentals of Hindu and Buddhist meditation are factors influencing our overall health, such as slowing down, being present, mindful, and practicing conscious breathing. It endorses the holistic approach to health and well being. It reinforces modern science’s increasing receptivity to the interconnection of mind and body, as research uncovers the gut and body microbiomes are in constant neurological communication with the brain.

Anti-microbial herbal treatments

While other blog entries are focused on the healthy balance of trillions of microbes that reside inside our bodies, this entry discusses the unhealthy invasive microbes that are external to our bodies. “Health care was originally designed to address infectious diseases” (invasive microbes), and treating diseases were focused on “anti-microbial” treatments and today, anti-biotic treatments. This approach has its merits. However, anti-biotics are known to suppress the healthy growth of gut microbiome. The preferred alternative for disease prevention might be the use of herbs in a person’s diet; a naturopathic “anti-microbial” approach instead of anti-biotic treatments. This is not to discourage the use of anti-biotics in emergency or critical care situations. However, the ongoing preventive consumption of “natural antibiotics” are less disruptive to the system. Again, these are “external” disease- prone microbes that can disrupt our body’s health.

Anti-microbial Herbs:

There are a number of anti-microbial herbs which serve to protect humans against invasive bacteria or viruses. These include oregano oil, manuka honey, garlic, onions, and echinacea, to name a few.

  • Oregano oil is one of the most powerful antibacterial essential oils because it contains carvacrol and thymol, two antibacterial and antifungal compounds. In fact, research shows oregano oil is effective against many clinical strains of bacteria, including Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  • Manuka honey can effectively inhibit multiple drug-resistant pathogens, indicating it has a broad spectrum of antibacterial capabilities unlike most antimicrobial agents. 
  • Garlic, especially raw garlic, contains chemical compounds, including allicin, have been proven to display antimicrobial activity and work to kill pathogens that are responsible for both common and rare infections. Garlic has been used for centuries to combat infectious diseases.
  • Onions is a food often used in mixed vegetable dishes, soups, and stir fry meals. Onions contain powerful flavonoids that have antibiotic effects, and, like garlic, they contain therapeutic sulfur compounds called cysteine sulphoxides.
  • Echinacea is a powerful immune system stimulator that can fight a number of infections.

Disruptive Innovation in Health Care

by Chris Kenji Beer.

A “Tsunami” of Ai is Coming to Health Care

In his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (1962), Thomas Samuel Kuhn referred to science as “a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions  . . . in each of which one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” There are a number of innovative companies diving into “intellectually violent revolutions”, including the likes of gut microbiome companies such as uBiome and Viome, and genetic sequencing companies such as Illumina, BGI Genomics, 10x Genomics.

Naveen Jain recently founded Viome, a leading personalized microbiome gut sequencing technology company that uses deep machine learning and data science to offer optimal health care solutions for its customers. One of Jain’s “Moonshot” goals is to “truly make illness optional.” To do so, we must “think like the future has already arrived.”

Like “icing on the cake” layered on top of our “return to our roots” health care grounded in the food we eat, are innovative Ai, machine learning, and new medical technology. These lead the way to transforming an industry that has been consumed by pharmaceutical drugs for decades. The industry is now equally steeped in controversy with limited results, and lots of damaging side effects such as the opioid epidemic. But taking on the powerful health care industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the insurance industry, is nothing short of bold.

For entrepreneurs however, this all just means more problem solving, and more opportunity. Imagine the intellectual revolutions taking place today in health care. You have access to health care for billions of people by simply using innovations in entrepreneurship. Serial entrepreneur Naveen Jain believes there is a big wave of Ai coming to the health sector. “There is a tsunami that’s coming,” he told CNBC in a TV interview from the Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland (December 01, 2017). Jain partly attributes this tsunami to the huge demand for sensors that are driving down the prices, making Ai (artificial intelligence) technology more available to the masses. “The sensors are becoming so cheap. For the first time in our lifetime, we can look deep inside our body to know exactly what is going on,” he told CNBC.

Biotechnology and health care startups are using Ai to discover a deeper and more detailed understanding of the mind and body. “Ai is going to play the biggest role because there is so much more data than humans can ever process,” according to Viome’s Jain.

The Current Health Care System is Obsolete.

Disruptive innovators believe the current health care system is broken or dysfunctional at best in so many ways. Today’s health care and technology has advanced beyond the system’s ability to control it. As the system becomes large, it becomes an organism set up to survive; it believes that only the stake holders of the system matter – “the hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies, says Jain. The customers are just a nuisance the system has to deal with in order to get paid.” “That is why the system is completely broken at this point. Pharmaceutical companies have become a parasite of humanity. Their sole purpose is to keep you sick.” When you have a chronic disease and you have a CEO of a pharmaceutical company who says that ‘the best drug we develop is the one that people must take for the rest of their life.’ The best drug is not the one that cures the disease, the best drugs are the ones that suppress the symptom so that you must take it for the rest of your life. That kind of system is essentially using people as guinea pigs to keep making money from us.” Today, “90% of health care costs are going toward chronic diseases”, so the burgeoning class of biotech and health care entrepreneurs is filling the gap to solve the problems of diseases.

One way to break this cycle of dependency is the use of modern technology at the ground level — in our local communities. “Instead of building hospitals,” says Naveen Jain using one example, “what if you can buy a $25 tablet device for a girl in a village who studies and learns to become a doctor online? She studies the nature of ailments prevailing in her home country and is able to address their health care needs with an app that evaluates personalized and individualized care for each patient in the village for a tiny sum of 25 cents per person.”

Mind- Body Connection

The history of modern medicine in the U.S. and Europe had a defining moment in the 17thCentury led by Rene Descartes. The “Cartesian duality” of mind and body stated that the mind and body are independently functioning parts. Today, we can no longer assume this traditional western belief that the brain and body are independently functioning. Not only do we know the mind and body are intimately interconnected, but they are immersively interdependent, constantly communicating, and working collaboratively together. Scientific communities all over the world are delving deeper into researching the intricacies and connections between the mind and body.

The brain – microbial body connections seem endless, as the engine of microbial research redefines the health care industry.

It is striking how the holistic health traditions of Asia seem to parallel modern innovative Ai driven health care pursuits. This includes data driven, microbial gut research, food- based solutions, and preventive holistic health care to support a healthy mind and body.

Viome- Personalized, Customer-Centric Health Care

So what does all this cutting edge research on the brain- to- gut connection mean? The research is driving change in the entire health care industry. It not only suggests a deep interconnection between the bacteria in our body to our brain, but it also opens health care to almost unlimited possibilities for answers and opportunities for solutions to today’s health care problems. “Our health is very personal, and very individually unique, so why is not health care applied at a personal, customer- centric, individual level?”

This all points toward Naveen Jain’s assertion that the large institutional systems currently in place, from healthcare to education, are becoming obsolete. Advancements in health care are rapidly moving the way of the entrepreneur and innovative startups. Jain’s Bluedot first spin off, Viome, now possesses the technology and deep learning capability to streamline our visions about health into a neural and biological network down to the fully personal, customizable molecular level. “Viome.com is able to identify/quantify all living organisms (bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus & mold) and more importantly look at their functional pathways to analyze what they are actually doing.”

“Viome is able to factor in chemical activities in the body from foods we eat, the effects of bacteria or viruses in our bodies, and the medicines we consume”. Viome is able to break down their impacts through artificial intelligence data combined with scientific and medical expertise to offer highly specific “actionable insights” to maximize the person’s health. Viome offers this data by analyzing the identify species and strains of bacteria, but also viruses, yeast, mold, and fungi in our gut. Viome’s Los Alamos Laboratory- driven technology analyzes their RNA, or ribonucleic acid. This technology was originally designed for the national security at Los Alamos National Labs and licensed by Viome has enabled a person’s complete microbiome test. The tests give visibility into which bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus or mold are present in too great or little quantities.

While Viome has been selling beta tests to thousands of customers at a monthly clip of $59, or $595 annually. However, the ever conscious entrepreneur in Jain knows that pivoting may be an option in the future, and said the company may consider fees as low as $10, even free, then generate sales off of the recommendations it makes. Viome raised an initial $6 million early 2017, and then announced an additional round in August of 2017 of $15 million led by Khosla Ventures with participation by Bold Capital Partners, totalling $21 million in 2017.

Institutional Innovations:

I and others assert that the current institutions that dominate the health care landscape have become part of the problem. This is not to suggest that all institutions are left completely out of the innovations role. Highly customizable and personalized health care solutions are at the cutting edge of disruptive innovation. You do not need to be an established entity to drive these disruptions, but you can be. The innovative applications of a person’s DNA sequence such as the tool for synthesizing DNA invented by biologist Leroy Hood’s Institute for Systems Biology, offer customizable health care at a genetic level, called genotyping. Seattle area’s Swedish Health Services has been recognized nationally for providing highly customized and personalized health care using Dr. Hood’s DNA sequencing.

Creator of the CRISPR Cas9 technology, CRISPR Caribou Biosciences CEO, Dr. Jennifer Doudna invented the ability to edit our genetic code. Doudna showed how CRISPR, or “clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats”, “bacteria’s natural defense system could be turned into a ‘gene editing’ tool to cut DNA strands”, according to the Genetic Literacy Project. In addition to founding CRISPR, she teaches chemistry and molecular biology at University of California Berkeley. Both Hood and Doudna are said by peers to be up for the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Hood helped his associates at Swedish Health Services play a leadership role in innovation, according to its then CEO Anthony Armada. “On the clinical side, for example, Swedish is the first to apply truly ‘personalized medicine’ using genotyping. Genotyping is a fingerprint of who you are genetically,” he adds. “For example, there can be five potential cures for a particular cancer. Genotyping can test and determine which of the five offers the best results, the least risk, and the best course of action for that particular patient” (source: NW Asian Weekly, Beer; August 04, 2016). Thanks to help from Dr. Hood, the founding father of genomics, the hospital is leading the country in the medical and scientific applications of genomics.

Other Health Care Disruptors:

Other disruptors in health care include Mark Zuckerberg’s $600 million funded biotechnology center in Silicon Valley. BioHub’s premier project is to create a vast directory of human cells, which it calls a “cell atlas.” (source: Antonio Regalado, MIT Technology Review, October 31, 2016). Stanford researcher and BioHub Co-President Steven Quake and BioHub are also part a consortium of researchers around the globe who are collaborating to map the millions of cells in the human body. Scientists at BioHub and elsewhere are inspecting tens of millions of human cells for their molecular signatures, among other things, to track the body’s specific immune system responses to different treatments such as radiation.

Like Viome’s collection of gut samples, uBiome now has a database of nearly 100,000 gut samples collected from its early adopter consumers the company refers to as “citizen scientists”, according to a 2016 TechCrunch article (Sara Buhr, November 01, 2016). “The GI tract is teeming with bacteria and research suggests the wrong kind may play a role in diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, liver disease, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and a number of other maladies.” uBiome features a new SmartGut screening test kit that you can buy online for an estimated $89 which aims to identify “dozens of microbial genera and species” using a 16S rRNA gene sequencing method. These are only a snapshot of disruptive innovators in the health care space.

Viome’s Genetic Code Priniciples:

Viome expands on the genetic code principles. Viome is a personalized “life optimization” health care solution using complex biological data and the most advanced, cutting edge technology originating from Los Alamos Laboratory. Viome takes highly customized information about how the body functions at a molecular and microscopic level. “Viome is able to identify relationships with species and strains of bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, fungi, and parasites within the human body and apply highly specific customized and personalized biochemical analysis and solutions to maximize each individual’s health”. There are three pillars to the Viome solution, according to their website (see http://viome.com), using microbiome gene expression, gut metabolites, metabolome, and genetics:

1) SCIENCE: Comprehensive metabolome and microbiome analysis resulting in high resolution complex biological data at a molecular level using a cost effective proprietary process.

2) DATA: Viome processes the customer’s samples in their state- of- the- art facilities to help generate a picture of your body at a molecular level. The company combines that with their doctor-trained artificial intelligence (Ai) engine to generate actionable diet, exercise, and nutrient recommendations.

3) INSIGHT: Viome offers an artificially intelligent, contextually relevant recommendation engine.

BlueDot unlocks valuable inventions by re-imagining research from top labs in order to solve humanity’s most pressing global challenges. Viome was formed by BlueDot by applying entrepreneurial skills to create cutting-edge technology derived from the research of organizations such as Los Alamos Laboratory and other national labs and universities”. Viome is the first of perhaps many spin offs of Blue Dot.

Why Viome is a leader in healthcare innovation is partly because it recognizes that the lion’s share of a person’s genetics resides in their gut, a whopping upwards of 90%! No other company has achieved the genetic makeup of the gut that Viome has and as deep and extensive data analysis. Ubiome falls short in this area.

A few takeaways here are that marketplace disruptions as in the case of Viome, can come from industry outsiders like Naveen Jain, technologies such as the military from Los Alamos labs. Direct-to-consumer applications which remove middlemen such as those of Viome and Ubiome offer more efficient and cost effective solution for health care consumers. It is not always about “reinventing the wheel” as it is “‘repurposing’ or ‘re- imagining’ the wheel”, as Jain likes to say. Technology and ideas can be repurposed for another business sector and be a disruptive innovation. Also, pre-existing technologies and creations at the academic and laboratory level are common sources of marketplace innovations in health care, as in the case of Silicon Valley’s CRISPR Caribou Biosciences and BioHub. This again reinforces the assertion that disruptive innovations come from anywhere.

Circling back to the original theme of this chapter, referring to Thomas Kuhn again, the study of the enteric nervous system, gut microbiome research and applying it to health care solutions, has effectively created arguably the greatest disruptive innovation of this generation.

Microbiome- Our puppet master

Producer of ‘Messenger Molecules’ (Neurotransmitters).

“The bacteria inside our guts, microbiomes, comprise an unlimited numbers of species and strains. They differ from person to person with limited or no relationship from person to person.
They are, among other things, ‘messenger molecules’ associated with the brain that circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream.
They even produce neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals our brain uses to communicate with the rest of the
body.”
Viome, a company founded by Seattle area based Naveen Jain, was born out of the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory, which licensed technology that was designed for national security. “Every disease starts in the gut. This
(Viome) technology came out of Los Alamos Laboratory where the United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing
(the technology) for the biodefense war. They wanted to know that if some bad actor were to get a hold of some biological (weapon), we would need to know what would be making us sick?”

Conversely the same technology can be used to data mine your biology to achieve maximum health benefits. This is the approach Viome took.

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.