Thursday, November 10, 2005

I Am We

Most of the cells in your body are not your own, nor are they even human. They are bacterial. From the invisible strands of fungi waiting to sprout between our toes, to the kilogram of bacterial matter in our guts, we are best viewed as walking "superorganisms," highly complex conglomerations of human cells, bacteria, fungi and viruses.

More than 500 different species of bacteria exist in our bodies, making up more than 100 trillion cells. Because our bodies are made of only some several trillion human cells, we are somewhat outnumbered by the aliens. It follows that most of the genes in our bodies are from bacteria, too.
Think that "you" are "you"? Turns out over 90% of "you" are bacterial cells. That is amazing. We should see ourselves as gardens that need to be tended, rather than stand alone entities. Seems like everybody want anti-bacterial this or that and yet I bet hardly anyone realizes how much of "us" is "them".

Sidenote: bacteria derives from the Latin for "share a table for dinner" while anti-biotic means "against life" in Latin.
The human genome provides only scant information. The discovery of how microbes in the gut can influence the body's responses to disease means that we now need more research into this area," said Nicholson. "Understanding these interactions will extend human biology and medicine well beyond the human genome and help elucidate novel types of gene-environment interactions, with this knowledge ultimately leading to new approaches to the treatment of disease."
Really makes you wonder why more science isn't going in to understanding how these guys work. If I go to the doctor, how come he doesn't do tests to figure out how many and healthy the bacteria in my system are? How come he doesn't tell me what kind of diets help out my bacteria?

Any why isn't more emphasis going into sequencing the genomes of these bacteria? How many species live in our stomachs? How much variation is there between people? I want to know.

Sidenote 2: Did you know that you crap out DNA? I had no idea of that until this Freakonomics article on doggie doo. That should make it really easy to get the stomach bacterial DNA, huh?

Via Wired Mag

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