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Why Viome’s Technology is Superior – Understanding Metatranscriptomic Analysis

May 27, 2018

Viome’s technology is superior because it captures everything that is happening in the gut microbiome – the key word here is happening. 

Not only can we identify the teeny tiny viruses, single cell eukaryotes, and elusive prokaryotes that lack a cell nucleus, we can determine the enzymes and other proteins these microbes are producing. This shows us what biochemical pathways are active in all of your gut microbes. 

 Viome follows these pathways, just like trails in a forest, to see where they end up, what stops they make along the way, and whether they end at an amazing view or a dangerous cliff. The pathways are the functions of your microbes – or what they are actually doing in your body. Our technology is capable of seeing such precise detail that we not only see the outcomes of functions, but the process as well. The ability to see every step of a pathway is part of what makes Viome’s technology so powerful. 

The technology Viome uses is called metatranscriptomic analysis. The reason metatranscriptomic analysis is so powerful is because it gives us a complete picture. Not only are we able to identify every active microbe, we can also identify the biochemicals that are being consumed and produced, and how the microbes are interacting with each other. This tells us what’s really going on. Metatranscriptomic analysis allows us to obtain functional profiles of every living microorganism in your gut.1 

Here are some of the amazing things we can see with metatranscriptomic technology:

  • If your microbes are producing or using the master antioxidant, glutathione.
  • If your microbiome is not able to process nutrients in foods like spinach, beets, and almonds, which may lead to health problems.  
  • If you’re not able to digest the amount of protein you are eating and it is becoming dangerous
  • If some of those healthy antioxidants you’re eating aren’t really benefiting you.
  • If you’re eating too much iron and promoting the growth of potential pathogens like, Shigella and Salmonella.

With metatranscriptomic analysis , its as if we took the strength of the Hubble telescope and turned it inward on your body. 

We are living in a symbiotic relationship with our microbes. In fact, it’s more accurate to say we’ve evolved to live in a symbiotic relationship with them. There is more of them than there are of us, and they’ve been around millions of years longer. With metatranscriptomic technology, we now have much greater insight into the nature of this symbiotic relationship.

So, it’s time we stopped thinking of ourselves as simply human because we’ve got a massive community of organisms living in and on us. While this may sound like an invasion of the body snatchers, rest assured that most of these little guys are on our side. Even those that sometimes get a bad rap are actually good for us in the right ratios – think E. coli. Even E. coli in the right levels and location of the gastrointestinal tract are great for regenerating the gut lining. 

When you think about your gut microbiome, keep in mind that this ecosystem is hugely important to your wellbeing. In fact, your gut microbiome weighs between 3 to 5 pounds, making it heavier than your brain! No matter where your health stands today, to make improvements you’ve got to take both your human self and your microbes into consideration. 

Because you, my friend, are mostly microbes. 


You Are Mostly Microbes


Another way to think about this is to imagine your gut microbiome as a community of individuals. A healthy community needs people with many different specialties so they have just the right person for just the right job – they need doctors, lawyers, firefighters, teachers, and more. Most testing companies can only tell you there are different types of people present and what their jobs might be. Viome’s metatranscriptomic analysis can tell you that Joe is a  fireman, is great at putting out fires, and he really likes to eat sweet potatoes. 

Pretty incredible, right? 

I don’t know about you, but if Joe is going to keep putting out my fires, I'll feed him all the sweet potatoes he wants. This is what Viome’s recommendations are – we use deep insights into the active microbes, expressed genes, pathways, and functions that give us a more complete picture of what exactly is going on in the gut microbiome.2 The recommendations include what you should eat to make the good guys happy, while weakening the bad guys, and to keep them all in balance.


A Brief History of Microbiome Testing 


We have come so far in the world of microbiome testing very quickly. While the rapid change and improvements are incredible, the associated terminology hasn’t caught up. Many important phrases, like metatranscriptomic analysis and metatranscriptomics, aren’t household names yet. This can be confusing when it comes to understanding the different testing options available to you. 

We totally get it. 

Which is why we are going to continue to supply you with the latest information, cutting edge findings, and deep insights into everything we’re doing – updated regularly through your Viome app. One way we can show you what makes Viome’s technology different from other tests on the market is with a brief history of microbiome testing. 

We are going to wind the clock back for a second and give you some context, so you can see why we’re so excited all the time! 

Here is a brief history of microbial testing:

  • Historically, growing microbial cultures in petri dishes was standard practice to identify what organisms were present in the microbiome. The problem with this was that only aerobic microbes, those that need could survive in oxygen, would grow. About 80% of your gut microbes are anaerobes, meaning they die in the presence of oxygen and thus couldn’t be seen with standard culture methods.  

Scientists knew they had to do better.

  • Next on the scene was 16S rRNA gene sequencing. This technology, sequences the DNA of one of the thousands of bacterial genes and so it can only identify bacteria at the genus level and certainly can’t differentiate between active and inactive microbes. It is also unable to identify viruses or eukaryotes, since these organisms do not contain a 16S gene.

Remember learning taxonomy in biology class? No? Not to worry, you aren’t alone on this one. Here’s a quick refresher...

Taxonomy is the scientific classification and naming system of all organisms. The order of taxonomic classification looks like this:

  • Domain
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species
  • Strain

As you can see, genus isn’t as good as it gets when it comes to microbe classification. In fact, it’s pretty weak. 

Let’s go back to our community analogy. Identifying microbes on a genus level is like saying, “Hey, there’s a bunch of humans over there.” That tells us almost nothing about what’s actually going on. 

You can’t tell if Joe the fireman is putting out fires or laying around on the job, and you definitely can’t tell what he likes to eat or how to make him work harder. 

Unfortunately, many gut microbiome tests are still using 16S rRNA gene sequencing technology.  

  • Next came metagenomic sequencing a.k.a whole shotgun sequencing of the microbiome. This technology can detect microorganisms at species or strain level, as well as eukaryotes and DNA viruses only. It can also see what genes are present.

 Sounds pretty good, right?  

But metagenomics can’t see RNA viruses or which microbes are actually active and doing something. It also can’t see what they are doing. 

While this technology is significantly better, it’s still not good enough.

  • Now for the exciting stuff – metatranscriptomic analysis , baby! 

Metatranscriptomic analysis  allows us to see it all. This includes bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes, DNA and RNA viruses and what genes they are expressing. In other words we can see who everyone is, and what everyone in the microbiome is doing.   

We can finally see it all – and what’s actually active. 

Before metatranscriptomic analysis, we were crawling around in the dark, arms outstretched looking for potential microbes. Now, we are able to shine a bright light into your gut and see what is actually going on in there. 

Now do you get why we are so excited all the time? We are absolutely thrilled you’re part of this with us!


Beyond the Gut – The Future of Our Metatranscriptomic Analysis 


Our mission at Viome is to make chronic illness optional. Imagine a world without Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's, and autoimmune disease. Imagine a world where you get to live to a ripe old age, with your body and mind completely intact. 

Viome is going to make that dream a reality. 

Viome is more than a gut microbiome testing company. We will eventually use our metatranscriptomic analysis technology on more than just your gut. 

Next up is the blood transcriptome! 

Your blood carries nutrients throughout your body, meaning it’s a key piece to the human biology puzzle. 

Big things are brewing in the Viome labs, keep an eye out for continuous exciting developments! 


Gain Deep Insights into Your Health with Viome


Here is another amazing thing about Viome’s metatranscriptomic technology… it took 15 years to sequence the human genome. We are now sequencing AND analyzing your gut microbiome using artificial intelligence  – which includes identifying trillions of active microbes, and their pathways, and functions –  in just a few weeks! Technology is accelerating at lightning speed and you get to reap the benefits with Viome.

You can read more about our artificial intelligence in our article: Meet Vie – Viome’s Artificial Intelligence System.

On top of that, technology is coming down dramatically  in cost. Ten years ago very few people could afford to have to have genomic testing done on themselves. Even two years ago, a Viome test cost $5,000 per person. Now, it’s only $399 per test. After that, you’re part of the Viome community and each subsequent test is only $199. And we will continue to bring this cost down until we achieve our mission of making chronic disease optional. 

When you sign up for Viome you are joining a team at the forefront of the Gut Microbiome Revolution. You are part of this massive, world-changing undertaking. We are so excited to be on this journey with you!

We at Viome are all about empowering you – the individual. This is why our test is delivered right to your door. 


Resources:


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4869604/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5787071/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15489351 


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Why Viome’s Technology is Superior – Understanding Metatranscriptomic Analysis

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