Thursday, April 19, 2012

What is the Human Microbiome? And why you should care.

The NIH has a common fund project to study the human microbiome.
What is a human microbiome, you ask?
It is the total microbial organism community in one given individual (bacteria and viruses).  The microbiome includes the genomes and the interactions of all these organisms in and on the human body.

Could this be another organ system that is not us but defines us and our health? 
  • Could this microbiome organ system define and regulate our digestive tract as early as birth when our gut is cultivated with bacteria from our mother's colostrum?
Below is a summary of the NIH's Human Microbiome Project.
"Program Snapshot
The Common Fund's Human Microbiome Project (HMP) aims to characterize the microbial communities found at several different sites on the human body, including nasal passages, oral cavities, skin, gastrointestinal tract, and urogenital tract, and to analyze the role of these microbes in human health and disease."
Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Prize winner and Yale graduate, pioneered this work as he discovered and uncovered bacterial sexual methods and techniques.
Once it was known that common bacteria, such as E. coli, were communicating genetic material amongst themselves via pilli (think strange tiny bacterial penis), we figured out that they were really one step ahead of us medical folks and our antibiotics as they engineered their resistance to antimicrobials.

Research on the microbiome and how it interacts with human physiology and disease is accelerating.  It is now thought that microbes play a role in Type I diabetes, obesity and a host of autoimmune diseases.

Animals benefit from colostrum. Our babies should too.
Medical Ethics

Here is a fascinating article on who owns the rights to your personal bacteria.  This brings up many new and interesting medical ethics issues.  Who is responsible for your personal microbiome?  What about the bacteria that you share with others and your environment?

Silent portents of our medical fate

Doesn't this all speak to the fact that we are but one organism in our environment, just one giant organism that tools around in an invisible but messy pool of microbes.  Our microbiome defines us, telegraphs our presence, leaves a footprint behind in our sewer systems as we slough off thousands of bacteria daily and tells untold tales of our biologic fate.

No comments:

Post a Comment