A drive to sequence the gut bacteria of thousands of people across the world that sees the University of Colorado in the lead science role has collected more than $340,000, the largest amount of money ever raised through crowdfunding of a science project.
Money pitched in by 2,005 donors is to be used to sequence gut bacteria from about 3,500 people, according to CU associate professor Rob Knight, of the BioFrontiers Institute.
Knight is co-leading the study along with Jeff Leach, founder of the Human Food Project. Public contributions to the project now total $340,477.
Scientists involved with the American Gut project are interested in how diet and lifestyle -- whether those differences are a matter of choice or necessity -- affect human microbial makeup, including people who suffer from particular autoimmune diseases or food allergies, Knight said.
Each person is thought to host about 10 trillion microorganisms, roughly 10 times more than the number of cells in the human body, which perform a number of different functions ranging from digesting food to strengthening of immune systems.
"The outpouring of public support for this research project demonstrates how public awareness of the role of our microbial systems in human health is growing," Knight said in a news release. "By looking at samples from the general public, we can get a far better sense of what a 'normal' micrbiome is and what factors have the largest effects."