HOLOBIONT- A General Perspective
HOLOBIONT- A General Perspective
What is a holobiont and why should you care?
From a non-biologist perspective, a holobiont can be thought of as a complex and interconnected system of organisms living in close association with each other.
A holobiont is not a single organism but rather a collection of different species of organisms,
including the host organism and various microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi that livewithin and on the host organism. These microorganisms are not just passive inhabitants but are actively involved in various aspects of the host's biology, including their digestion, immune responses, and even behaviour.
For example, humans are holobiont and interact with thousands of different microorganisms thatcoat our skin and line our gut, living alongside our own cells.
Understanding the role of the holobiont and how it functions can help us better understand the complexity of the natural world and how species can interact and depend on each other for survival.
Why is it important to understand and explore the concept of holobiont more closely?
It is important to understand and explore the concept of holobiont more closely because it can have significant implications for various fields, including medicine, ecology, and agriculture.
In medicine, understanding the role of the holobiont can help us develop new treatments and
therapies that take into account the interactions between the host and its associated microorganisms.
For example, research has shown that certain diseases, such as inflammatory bowel
disease and diabetes, may be linked to imbalances in the gut microbiome. By understanding treating patients from a holobiont perspective, we may be able to develop treatments that restore these imbalances and improve health outcomes.
In ecology, the concept of the holobiont can help us better understand the interactions between different species and their environments. For example, research has shown that the survival of coral reefs relies on the health of complex community of microorganisms that live with the coral host. By understanding these relationships, we may be able to develop strategies to protect and restore coral reefs in the face of climate change and other environmental threats.
In agriculture, the concept of the holobiont can help us develop more sustainable and efficient
farming practices. For example, plants rely on a diverse community of microorganisms to absorb nutrients from the soil and defend against pests and diseases. By understanding these relationships, we may be able to develop strategies to enhance plant-microbe interactions and improve crop yields while reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Overall, understanding the concept of the holobiont can help us better appreciate the complexity of the natural world and how different species can interact and depend on each other for survival.
How will the centre contribute to the research?
The Centre will generate foundational knowledge of holobionts and will help identify the diversity of associations between microbes and their hosts, how they interact at a molecular level, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that maintain these associations. The Centre will build a centralised compendium of holobiont relationships across the Tree of Life, providing a baseline for the field of study as whole. We will develop new flexible bioengineering tools by which holobiont relationships can be manipulated. We have identified pressing cases biodiversity conservation,agriculture, and ecosystem restoration that would benefit from a holobiont perspective, and where these tools and ideas can be applied immediately. By addressing these challenges, the Centre will demonstrate how knowledge of holobiont relationships can provide important insights and answers to global challenges.
The impacts of the research will not be limited to these case studies. While we have selected some of the most urgent and tractable challenges, there are an enormous array of applications, from using holobionts for bioremediation of pollutants to creating novel holobionts for space travel and terraforming of alien planets. We therefore expect the Centre will be a nexus of holobiont research in the broadest sense, with spin-offs and applications into areas that are as varied as holobionts themselves.