By Tessa Berenson
May 13, 2016
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

The White House announced a new initiative Friday that will study microbiomes, the communities of bacteria that live all around us—and inside of us, particularly in our digestive system.

The National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) will launch with a federal investment more than $121 million, according to a White House release, and will seek to understand and restore dysfunctional microbiomes, which can cause health and environmental problems.

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“Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms that live on or in people, plants, soil, oceans, and the atmosphere,” the release explains. “Dysfunctional microbiomes are associated with issues including human chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma; local ecological disruptions such as the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico; and reductions in agricultural productivity… The NMI aims to advance understanding of microbiome behavior and enable protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function.”

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