Microbes and Molecules – a Microscopic Analysis of Asthma – A Project for IMSM 2013

Agustin Calatroni, Henry Lynn and Herman Mitchell
Rho, Inc.
Chapel Hill, NC

Emily Lei Kang
Department of Mathematical Sciences
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH

Project Description

The objective of this analysis is to understand the interplay between microbes in the environment and asthma. Current belief is that differences in environmental exposures to microbes (e.g., bacteria, fungi, viruses) early in life are associated with the development of allergies and asthma, but the mechanism underlying this relationship is unknown. One possibility is that early exposure to a rich and diverse microbial environment may shape the composition of an infant’s gastrointestinal microbiome and in turn affect the rate or pattern of development of immune function as detected by specific proteins known as cytokines.

In this study, we have a wealth of variables that may elucidate this question between microbes and immune function. Specifically, house dust and blood samples were collected from 104 participants using a nested case-cohort design. With each sample, we measured the relative abundance of ~50,000 bacteria taxa and the level of different cytokines relevant to innate immunity. Different stimulants were applied to measure the magnitude of immune response for each cytokine measured at birth, 1 year, and 3 years, yielding a total of ~60 cytokine measurements.

The mission here is a) to sort out and identify which are the important associations among the 50,000 bacteria taxa x 60 cytokines possible links while taking into account the inter- relationships among the bacteria and that among the cytokines, and b) to summarize the findings in an intuitive manner, to communicate effectively the results.

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