Beyond the Microbiome: Monitoring the Immune Response to Microbes

Humans are host to trillions of microbial organisms—a vast ecosystem that inhabits every body part, playing a role in health and disease. The gut is host to diverse microorganisms that are involved in host digestion, metabolism and immunity. Even systems that were initially believed to be sterile environments, such as the lung, are now known to be host to diverse populations of microbes in healthy individuals. The composition of the microbiome can alter due to environmental factors or disease, and researchers are now examining the complex interactions between the microbiome and the host immune system in an attempt to understand their role in health and disease.

Host and environmental factors influencing individual human cytokine responses

Rob ter Horst and colleagues examined environmental and non-genetic host factors that alter the immune response, by measuring the production and release of cytokines in response to bacterial, fungal, viral and non-microbial metabolic stimuli in over 500 healthy subjects with a broad age range. Unable to measure resting levels of cytokines that are present in low abundance in healthy individuals, the team used Simple Plex assays on the Ella platform to measure cytokine concentrations, including IL-1β, IL-6, IL-18 and VEGF, in the fg/mL to low pg/mL range—Simple Plex assays have a wide dynamic range from 3–5 logs, typically 1–2 logs greater than standard ELISA kits. They observed a correlation between age and gender for circulating biomarkers in healthy individuals. In an ex-vivo system, they also measured cytokine expression after exposure to microbial stimuli and observed differences in cytokine production that could be attributed to age, gender and seasonality.

Read the full paper: Host and environmental factors influencing individual human cytokine responses

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