More Than Half Our Bodies Are Not Our Own Cells

Here’s something that you should probably think about, although if you think about it for too long it gets extremely weird and gross: Half of your body’s cells are actually made up of “microscopic colonists”—bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.—that play an enormous role in your health and happiness. Which has to mean everybody’s new favorite superhero is, of course—

This startling fact, that only 47% of our own cells are our own cells, was  described in a post by BBC Health and science correspondent James Gallagher on the BBC news site. In the post, Gallagher mainly focuses on the interaction the microbiomes on and inside of our bodies have with our own cells—that is, cells with our own DNA versus some other type of DNA—noting that every time we mess with them, we take some big risks.

For example, Gallagher notes that antibiotics have been hugely successful in eliminating diseases since their introduction into modern, mainstream medicine, but, due to their deleterious effects on our microbiomes, are likely the cause of many autoimmune diseases and allergies.

It seems that with antibiotics, we’re running into a “Bart the Mother” problem from The Simpsons. I.e. you cure the lizard infestation with Chinese needle snakes, but then you need snake-eating gorillas, and it’s not even definite that they’ll freeze in winter. See what we’re saying? It’s a Whac-A-Mole kind of deal with these dang biological bodies.

via The Frinkiac

Gallagher also dips into this topic in a little more depth, specifically with how it relates to nutrition, in another BBC article titled “Good bacteria: Why I put my poo in the post.” In that article, Gallagher says that the most densely packed microbiome in the body is in the gut, which means our nutrition is hugely important. And if you don’t want to read the article, here’s a quick summary: EAT MORE FIBER.

We’ll also apparently be analyzing our fecal matter a lot more in the future to determine what’s wrong with our microbiomes, as well as what we should and shouldn’t be eating to best benefit them. Part of this process will involve sequencing our microbiomes, which have between two and 20 million genes compared to our 20,000.

What are your thoughts on these crazy microbial stats? Err, what are your microbiome’s thoughts actually? Let us know in the comments, little dudes.

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Images: Flickr /  Anthony D’Onofrio

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