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Understanding the Connection Between Human and Environmental Health Using Real-Time Genomics

Featured Publication, Pioneer Campus,

Human health is closely connected to the health of our environment. So far, the complex ways in which they influence each other are not fully understood. The concept of One Health recognizes this interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. In a new perspective article, published in Molecular Systems Biology, Dr Lara Urban from Helmholtz Munich and an international team of scientists show, how using real-time genomic analysis can benefit the concept of One Health. A combination of statistical and AI methods allows for analysis of genomes in real-time. This helps to understand health of ecosystems in a more detailed and timely manner.

The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted the concept of One Health into the center of public attention, showcasing how environmental, animal, and human health are inextricably linked. In a new perspective article composed by Principipal Investigator Dr Lara Urban from Helmholtz Munich in collaboration with an interdisciplinary and international team, scientists explore how disruptive technology that allows for portable real-time genomic analyses can enable timely, in-depth assessments of the ecosystems health. This guides the development of efficient intervention strategies.

The researchers provide examples and emphasize potential future paths and limitations, highlighting how real-time genomics plays a crucial role in shaping these strategies. They display how genomic research in combination with statistical and artificial intelligence (AI) methodology can be leveraged to better understand, e.g., emerging pathogens, food security, the environmental microbiome, as well as wildlife conservation and trafficking. The article further stresses why equitable access to such technologies in the context of One Health will be paramount, and discusses related practical, legal, and ethical limitations.

“As we believe that our society is at a crossroad with respect to the future relationship with our planet’s health, we hope that the uptake of disruptive technology in the context of One Health can facilitate and inform global and equitable in situ environmental and health monitoring efforts”, summarizes Lara Urban, corresponding author of the article. 


About the Scientist

Dr Lara Urban, Principal Investigator at Helmholtz Munich, Helmholtz AI and Helmholtz Pioneer Campus, and Fellow at Life Sciences School, Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Original publication

Urban et al. (2023): Real-time Genomics for One Health. Molecular Systems Biology. DOI: 10.15252/msb.202311686