Jonathan Eisen: Meet your microbes | TED Talk
Humans have microbes living on the skin, in the oral cavity, ear, and nose and gut. There are more of these guys in/on our bodies than there are human cells. Radiolab and Only Human have partnered with uBiome, a company that sequences the DNA of microbes, so that you can find out about the. What do you see? You can't see them, but they're there. They're in you, on you, and you alone have more than a hundred thousand billion of them. That's 14, .
As is the case with many natural microbiomes the sum of microorganisms, their genomes and environmental interactions in an environmentmany of species that live in the human gut cannot be cultured. Historically, this has made studying the human gut microbiome difficult. So relatively little detail is known about the composition of the human gut microflora, or how it responds to things like antibiotic treatments or overzealous disinfection.
Massive computing power and next generation sequencing are the proverbial knight in shining armor, riding in on a white charger to come to the rescue of human gut microbiome research. Well it gets better: By taking part, you get insight into a part of yourself that you might not have even considered.
Not only are you funding the project, you also become part of the dataset, and you get to see how your microbiome looks in comparison to everyone else. Apparently you can get your pets involved too, if you feel inclined. Phase I of The American Gut project has attracted more than participants so far. The project is now in Phase II and aims to reach 10 participants by beginning of April. Click here to get involved!
Meet your microbes
So what about the Knight? Did you think you were alone? What do you see? They protect you and help you stay healthy.
Get to know this invisible life form. Want to see your own microbes? You do not see them, but they are there.
And they interfere with everything. While you were sleeping, your microbes were hard at work all night long. Because microbes never sleep. Your cheese sandwich at breakfast is only possible because of microbes like yeast and bacteria. Microbe skeletons in your toothpaste scrub your teeth clean.
And in your intestines, nearly 1. A morning full of microbes. And I recovered, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, insulin and other things, and gained all my weight back and more.
And something festered inside me after this happened. What I thought about was, what caused the diabetes? You see, diabetes is an autoimmune disease where your body fights itself, and at the time people thought that somehow maybe exposure to a pathogen had triggered my immune system to fight the pathogen and then kill the cells that make insulin.
And this is what I thought for a long period of time, and that's in fact what medicine and people have focused on quite a bit, the microbes that do bad things. And that's where I need my assistant here now.
You may recognize her. So, I went yesterday, I apologize, I skipped a few of the talks, and I went over to the National Academy of Sciences building, and they sell toys, giant microbes.
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And here we go! So you have caught flesh-eating disease if you caught that one. I gotta get back out my baseball ability here. Laughter So, unfortunately or not surprisingly, most of the microbes they sell at the National Academy building are pathogens.
Everybody focuses on the things that kill us, and that's what I was focusing on. And it turns out that we are covered in a cloud of microbes, and those microbes actually do us good much of the time, rather than killing us.
And so, we've known about this for some period of time. People have used microscopes to look at the microbes that cover us, I know you're not paying attention to me, but Laughter The microbes that cover us. And if you look at them in the microscope, you can see that we actually have 10 times as many cells of microbes on us as we have human cells.
There's more mass in the microbes than the mass of our brain. We are literally a teeming ecosystem of microorganisms. And unfortunately, if you want to learn about the microorganisms, just looking at them in a microscope is not sufficient.
And so we just heard about the DNA sequencing.
Meet your microbes - Micropia
It turns out that one of the best ways to look at microbes and to understand them is to look at their DNA. And that's what I've been doing for 20 years, using DNA sequencing, collecting samples from various places, including the human body, reading the DNA sequence and then using that DNA sequencing to tell us about the microbes that are in a particular place. And what's amazing, when you use this technology, for example, looking at humans, we're not just covered in a sea of microbes.
There are thousands upon thousands of different kinds of microbes on us. We have millions of genes of microbes in our human microbiome covering us.
- Meet your microbes: take part in the American Gut Project
- Jonathan Eisen’s “Meet your microbes” – great Ted Talk
And so this microbial diversity differs between people, and what people have been thinking about in the last 10, maybe 15 years is, maybe these microbes, this microbial cloud in and on us, and the variation between us, may be responsible for some of the health and illness differences between us. And that comes back to the diabetes story I was telling you.
It turns out that people now think that one of the triggers for type 1 diabetes is not fighting a pathogen, but is in fact trying to — miscommunicating with the microbes that live in and on you. And somehow maybe the microbial community that's in and on me got off, and then this triggered some sort of immune response and led to me killing the cells that make insulin in my body.