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"I am large, I contain multitudes." – Walt Whitman
There are ten times more non-human cells in your body than there are human cells.
Think about that for a moment. Your body is incredibly diverse, a community of cells as populous as the night sky. And though certain cells stand out like constellations, there are multitudes beyond them. You, the individual, are vast beyond comprehension.
In this study, 200 scientists from 80 institutions studied 4788 biological samples from 242 healthy adults – and found over ten thousand species represented in what is being called the Human Microbiome Project.
“Like 15th century explorers describing the outline of a new continent, HMP researchers employed a new technological strategy to define, for the first time, the normal microbial makeup of the human body,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
This is hardly navel-gazing. The normal complement of microflora that inhabit the human body helps prevent disease, as well as performing many critical cooperative functions for human beings. Understanding of this incredibly varied community may well represent the next major step forward in our understanding of human health.
Original paper (full text): http://www.mbl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/microbiome_huse_nature12.pdf
The landmark publication this week of a “map” of the bacterial make-up of healthy humans required the work of 200 scientists, who made sense of more than 5,000 samples of human and bacterial DNA and 3…