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CURRENT RESEARCH

HUMAN MICROBIOME AND THE BRAIN

 

When we study human health, we often look somewhat closely at our food intakes but we negate the awareness of how our bodies are really reacting from them, i.e. what are the outcomes that we can deduce from our stool (poop)?

Research has and continues to show large correlations between the human gut and diseases, many scientists now refer to the gut as the second brain. Dementia, which includes Alzheimer's disease, impacts nearly 50 million globally (4.8 million in the U.S.). These conditions may often have developed up to twenty years. The issue is that diagnosis often happens too late because there are no noticeable symptom and by then it's often too late to treat. The hope is to be able to notice seemingly invisible changes through other means such as the human microbiome.


The following diagrams show the progression of the project as it stands. Updates on the project will be reflected on this page throughout the course of the work.

 
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[1] INTRODUCTION TO WELLNESS

A few architects in the past have tried to address the notion of wellness through natural daylighting as well as natural ventilation, as seen in the Lovell Health House. We instead see wellness residing in the water.

Blue Clay Spa competition entry: 
With water accounting for at least 75% of the human body as well as the planet Earth - water is life. The project puts bathing at the center of the wellness experience. A 250'-foot water corridor serves as an extension of the domestic bathroom, where bathing becomes the transition between the pool, clay bath, and resting space.


 
 


[2] SHIFT FOCUS TO WASTE

In 2017, I was admitted into the Masters in Design Engineering program at Harvard. While brainstorming for a potential thesis topic, I had learned from the former students that their class had focused on food systems - food production, nutrition values, food processing. But what if we look at the latter part of food system that’s often overlooked - the human waste as the byproduct? 


 
 

[3] INTELLIGENT TOILET

Following the thought on human waste, let’s look at the toilet infrastructure. Besides the simple maneuver of pushing waste down into the sewers, the intelligent toilet we saw at the TOTO showroom in Japan promotes a self-analytical tool that allows users to monitor their basic vitals such as body weight, BMI, blood sugar level, blood pressure, and urine temperature. 


 
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[4] BATHROOM AS A CLINIC

Can bathrooms serve as the central element in a house? In areas where clinics are sparse coupled with a high demand, domestic bathrooms can potentially alleviate those pressures by shifting some basic monitoring tools into the house. 


 
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[5] GOOGLE BATHROOM

In 2017, Google has filed a patent for a smart bathroom, which specifically calls out the use of optic sensors (mirror, phone, etc) that can detect a person's cardiovascular health through visible changes in skin color. 


 
 

[6] CLEAN INDIA 

Since 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged for a 'Clean India,' which has spurred more toilet building in a given period (80 million toilets) than ever before. The time is ripe, perhaps this 'smart toilet' idea can be rolled into not only a Clean India but also a Healthy India.


 
 


[7] CASE STUDY: ALZHEIMER'S

Alzheimer's Disease, the most common form of dementia, affects more than 44 million individuals world wide. Researchers and R+D companies such as AC Immune are working hard to develop both vaccines and drugs to help prevent or even cure AD. In places such as India, the number of cases is expected to triple by 2050. 


 
 

[8] GATES FOUNDATION : DIAGNOSIS ACCELERATION

In 2017, Bill Gates had donated $100 million to fund researchers working toward a cure and early detection of Alzheimer's Disease.


 
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[9] GUT AS THE SECOND BRAIN

Recently, there are initial research showing a potential gut to brain connection. There are two reason for why the gut is considered a second brain: (1) the enteric nervous system, which lines almost the entirety of the gut, can function independent of the central nervous system, and (2) certain bacteria, especially in the neonatal state, effect the development of the brain. Can we potentially connect the microbiome with the onset of Alzheimer's.
 


 
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[10] HUMAN MICROBIOME PROJECT

Since 2008, the NIH Human Microbiome Project has attempted to fully understand the human microbiome. These are not limited to those found in the human gut, but also other locations, such as the mouth and the skin. Its first phase focused on mapping out as many species of bacteria as possible in a typical healthy human being. Currently, the second phase of the project focuses the study on three specific cases: pregnancy, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 2 diabetes, and how these cases alter the microbiome or vice versa. 

Additionally, the technology to study such areas have developed to not only see 'who's' there but also what's being produced - the functioning aspect of certain collection of microbiota. 


 
 

[11] KITS

Several companies, such as Viome and Ubiome, have attempted to develop at-home kits for which individuals can send in their samples and have the labs analyze their data against the group norm and signal if anything seems out of the ordinary.


 
 

[12] FOLLOW UP

Part of this design research project is to identify and resolve specific issues either directly with the patients or indirectly through assisting in lab research work. One case that it will try to address is the notion of a longitudinal study in which each individual is tracked over a longer period of time to evaluate him/her based on their own overall norms rather than against a global mean. These strategies would hopefully help detect earlier any personal imbalance that may, in the long term, develop into more serious conditions.