Our microbiome

Came across a nice TED talk about the microbiome of the human body by Professor Rob Knight of UCSD. It is fascinating how the human body serves as a breeding ground for trillions of bacteria with a genomic diversity ten thousand fold greater than the human genome.

If you have not heard about fecal transplants by now, then brace yourself for this. Apparently there are bacteria that make you obese. Transplanting bacteria from obese people into mice made them obese too. How crazy is that? Many may view bacteria in a negative light but having worked with bacteria, they play such a key role in scientific research. Genetic engineering is heavily dependent on bacteria, mainly because of their ability to take up DNA and multiply exponentially. This allows the generation of copious amounts of DNA, as well as proteins, and its simplicity allows us to explore the functions of genes. Working with bacteria comes with its pitfalls too, mainly involving nasty smells and putrid gasses, cloudy media and cell contamination. A little bacteria in a moist nutrient-rich space and they spread like wildfire. I suppose this may happen on human skin as well? 😐 It is after all a leading cause of human sickness and infections. Little wonder that big pharma is now increasingly investing in antibiotics as seen from Merck’s takeover of antibiotic-focused developer Cubist, and its subsequent laying off of 120 staff.

Now that bacteria can do more than make us sick though, a whole new approach may be needed apart from trying to kill them.


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