The new International Microbiome Centre (IMC) has already been the subject of six previous blogs here at GenomeAlberta.ca. I am going to add one more since I have been fortunate enough to take in two presentations by Dr. Kathy McCoy, director of the IMC. One of the things that most impressed me with Dr. McCoy’s presentations was how she demonstrated the skills of a scientist while clearly communicating the role of the scientific method.
I’m not going to rewrite everything she said. You can find her presentation on YouTube and an interview with her on a previous Genome Alberta podcast. Without going into full details then, here is my analysis of her presentation:
- Background information: Dr. McCoy starts her presentation by describing what we know so far about gut microbes, the good the bad and the ugly. Here is what is being observed now: chronic inflammatory diseases have greatly increased to epidemic proportions during the past 50 years.
- Question/Problem: What are the microbes that are beneficial for the disease that you have?
- Prediction: By understanding the microbiome and the mechanisms and pathways, we can harness the power of the microbiome to prevent diseases.
- Variables: Now Dr. McCoy explains how difficult it will be to control the variables and determine which microbes are involved. The answer to this sounds simple. All she will need is an organism (mouse) which has zero gut microbes. Then she can add the microbes systematically to the mouse gut in a controlled manner AND this must be done in an extremely sterile environment. That sounds expensive! Like twelve million dollars worth! BUT since there is a well-developed plan following an understandable scientific method, funding became available from Western Economic Diversification Canada and the University of Calgary to build a germ-free working lab called the International Microbiome Centre.
We can all look forward to seeing the results of these experiments. The application of the research from the world-class IMC will have a profound effect on the challenging health problems of our times.
You may have seen various articles claiming the scientific method is just an artificial construct not worth teaching our students. Remind yourself that the best scientists do indeed use the scientific method, especially the ones spending over $12,000,000 to set up the controls for their research.
Links of interest:
Microbiome: The ‘forgotten organ’
Kathy McCoy, PhD - Leading the largest academic germ free facility in the world
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