Based on new insights into what gut bacteria mean for health MyMicroZoo wants to build a community of people who are interested in understanding and exploring their own gut bacteria.
Leiden Bio Science Park welcomes a new BaseClear spin-off company, MyMicroZoo. The first company in the Netherlands to offer consumers a personal and scientifically based insight into their gut bacteria.
The company helps consumers to compare their gut bacteria composition to that of the rest of the population and also gives them a tool to monitor the effect of changes in their diet and lifestyle on their gut health bacteria.
“Scientifically, we offer well established bacterial identification techniques which have been used for a number of years in the scientific community. But now, we offer these techniques as a service to the general public.”, says Dr Derek Butler, CEO of brand new LBSP company MyMicroZoo.
“Over the past ten years, there has been an explosion of scientific research on the effects of our gut bacteria on many different aspects of our health and well-being”, tells Butler. “This research has shown that in addition to your genetics, diet and lifestyle your gut bacteria also have a huge influence on your health.
What ‘s new is that we at MyMicroZoo provide a personal gut bacteria analysis service based on the best available scientific techniques. You can now perform the analysis, then try a change of diet or lifestyle and come back to see if we can measure an improvement.”
Better sports performance
As microbiota (the gut bacteria population) science progresses, it will be used to prevent or cure diseases, and even to optimise physical performance in sports. Butler: “The University of Cork in Ireland, where I studied, has shown interesting correlations between the physical performance of the national rugby team, and their gut bacteria. At the elite sports level, even a relatively small improvement can mean the difference between finishing fifth or winning the gold medal.”
A chance meeting
“I moved from Ireland 14 years ago as my wife wanted to return to her native Holland, and have worked on genome sequencing and analysis at BaseClear for the last decade. Although we had been considering the MyMicroZoo idea for a while, a chance meeting at a conference with a former colleague Dr. Jos Seegers, who had similar ideas, was the spark which resulted in the current initiative.
Growing public awareness
"We saw that there was a growing public interest in gut bacteria and at a technical level it was feasible to offer this service. I think many people can benefit from this service. First of all, people with health issues related to the gastrointestinal system, such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory diseases of the intestine, diabetes, obesity and so on. Then, there are the elite sports people and people who take a special interest in high performance. This group partly overlaps with a third group, who are interested in improving their health and measuring as much as they can, the Quantified Self movement.”
“We hope to establish a community of people who are interested in participating in citizen science and our research. Yes, it's really exciting and challenging at times, as it should be. This is still a really new idea, so nobody knows where it will take us.”
Please check out MyMicroZoo at www.mymicrozoo.com
Interview by Pieter van Megchelen