Environmental Microbes in the Hygiene Hypothesis

Harald Renz, University of Marburg

Speech at the Herrenhausen Conference "Beyond the Intestinal Microbiome – From Signatures to Therapy", 10.10.2014

Overwhelming evidence indicates a strong impact of environmental microbes on the programming and the development of (early) immune responses. Based on clinical and epidemiological data, a certain exposure of environmental microbes – particularly of bacteria – seems to be an important pre-requisite for programming immune responses towards the tolerance default program. Such programming on the level of the adaptive immune responses is necessary, and required in order to prevent unwanted (chronic) inflammatory diseases and many autoimmune diseases. The grand challenge is to define the appropriate microbial environment on the cellular and molecular level in order to delineate the underlying mechanism of microbe-host interaction. Microbial diversity is one important finding the scientific community largely agrees upon. Conversely, reduced diversity is closely linked to several clinical phenotypes that precede the clinical onset of the disease, suggesting a cause-effect relationship. This concept implies the loss of evolutionary co-evolved microbial strains and is the result of changes in lifestyle condition. The great challenge is to delineate the molecular pathomechanism of gene-environment interactions and the impact of microbial communities on this complex and intimate relationship. Therefore, it is urgently needed to move this research field towards translational activities.

Photo: Mirko Krenzel for Volkswagen Foundation

ScienceUncut - Science Podcast by Volkswagen Foundation