Citizen Science and the Microbiome: uBiome studies women’s health

Everyone that reads this blog has some stake in the human microbiome game, so I’m assuming that you would all be interested in exploring your own personal microbiomes!

If you haven’t heard of them by now, uBiome is a company started via a crowdsourcing effort in the San Francisco Bay Area back in 2012 with personal microbiomes in mind. They now provide sampling kits (internationally!) for you to test your own microbes at any of the five physical sites they currently study: skin, nasal, oral, gut, and genitals.  In addition to each sampling kit is a health survey.  The information uBiome gets in each of these surveys allows the data from the resulting microbiomes to be included in larger research projects (with your permission of course), both at uBiome and with various collaborators.

The latest project being pursued by uBiome is a women’s health initiative (sorry guys, this one’s for the ladies!).  The new study will make use of citizen science and the uBiome platform to delve into the changes in the vaginal microbiome throughout both the menstrual cycle and different phases of life.  Anyone that meets the criteria and wants to participate, anywhere in the world, can opt into the study.  Participating means that you not only get to learn about your own microbiome and how it stacks up against other women around the world, but you also get to be a part of a larger initiative towards advancing women’s health.  As an added incentive, uBiome provided the first 500 kits for free (all of which were claimed in under two days), and any kits beyond those initial 500 are being provided at a discounted price.

Between social media and word of mouth, innovative ventures like uBiome may be the most relevant new way to study broad topics like the microbiome.  Citizen science initiatives brings a whole new brand of participation in research studies to the field.  I for one can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.

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