The Texas Children’s Microbiome Center advances the mission of Texas Children’s Hospital by pursuing metagenomic (the study of microbial genomes) and microbiome research related to the care of women and children.
While many view microbes (such as bacteria) negatively, the truth is that humans host a large variety of microbes that are beneficial or necessary to our health. (For instance, you may have heard of probiotics and/or the beneficial effects of live cultures in yogurt.)
Quite simply, the term “Microbiome” refers to the entire microbial environment that lives in and on our bodies. Studying the ways in which these microbes interact in the healthy and unhealthy alike is a cutting edge area of medicine, and we in the Microbiome Center are proud to be fostering collaborations on this important research to help pregnant women and children throughout the institution and beyond.
Some of the research that has gained us notoriety involves irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a painful gastrointestinal condition that affects as many as 1 in 5 Americans. Although we don’t know what percentage of children have IBS, we know that 30-66% of children with IBS continue to have similar problems into adulthood. In a 2011 paper, we showed that there tend to be key differences in the gut bacteria of children with and without IBS. By studying the gut microbiomes of healthy and IBS-affected children, we draw closer to understanding the causes, refining diagnoses, and developing treatments for this condition.
The same is true for the many other conditions that researchers have only begun to study in this field. Our focus on mothers and children sets us apart, and it is our hope that in thus doing, we will prepare babies and children for better health over their entire lifetimes.
We are involved with collaborations with the Neurological Research Institute, Children's Nutrition Research Center and Texas Children's Pavilion for Women, as well as working to educate parents and health care professionals on the importance of research into the ways bacteria affect kids both positively and negatively.