Maui News

Native Squid Used in Research of Environment and Human Health

March 5, 2017, 8:29 AM HST
* Updated March 5, 8:32 AM
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UH Squid/Vibrio Research

The Hawaiian bobtail squid is helping to build the University of Hawaiʻi’s capacity in the field of microbiome research, which scientists say could help the environment and human health.

Researchers at UH Mānoa’s Pacific Biosciences Research Center are studying the simple squid and its interactions with a single bioluminescent bacterium (vibrio fischeri) that grows inside of it to shed light on the incredibly more complex human microbiome.

UH Squid/Vibrio Research

Recent research has shown vast and diverse microbial communities in the human gut, on our skin and inside buildings.  Scientists say microbes may also play key roles in immunity, obesity and development.

Microbiome research is so important that the White House announced a National Microbiome Initiative in 2016 to understand, protect and restore healthy microbiome function, with specific implications for human health, environmental sustainability and energy and food production. UH has invested at least $3.2 million in support of this initiative.

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“We use the squid-vibrio (microbe) system as a very simple model and the bacteria, this particular luminous bacterium that makes light for the squid associates with the animal cells in exactly the same way as our (human) bacteria associate with our cells,” explains Margaret McFall-Ngai, director of the UH Mānoa’s Pacific Biosciences Research Center.

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The microbiome research includes more than a dozen researchers, led by three members of the National Academy of Sciences, including Pacific Biosciences Research Center Director Margaret McFall-Ngai.

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