The associate director of Washington University in St. Louis' Genome Institute, George Weinstock, was one of this project's lead researchers. He says we have about ten times more microbial cells in our body than we have human cells.
He told our reporter Véronique LaCapra today:
“...there’s probably a hundred times or more microbial genes in our body than there are genes in our human genome,” Weinstock said. “So the microbes, they’re not just a small little part of us, they’re really a very, very large, perhaps almost dominant part of our body.”
The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 of those cells is actually human. The rest are from bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. Now, scientists have unveiled the first survey the "human microbiome," which includes 10,000 species and more than 8 million genes.
The bacterium Enterococcus faecalis, which lives in the human gut, is just one type of microbe that was studied as part of the Human Microbiome Project funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Researchers have completed the first comprehensive census of the human “microbiome” — the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that live in and on our bodies.
The associate director of Washington University’s Genome Institute, George Weinstock, was one of the project’s lead researchers. He says we have about ten times more microbial cells in our body than we have human cells.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were able to grow and manipulate individual collections of human intestinal microbes, like these E. coli, in the laboratory. (Wikimedia Commons/Rocky Mountain Laboratories/NIAID/NIH)
Washington University microbiologist Dr. Jeffrey Gordon says his team then transplanted the bacterial communities into previously germ-free mice, to see how the lab-grown bacteria would respond to a human diet.