• By Dana Sparks

Discovery’s Edge: Rise of the Microbiome

June 7, 2016

a young man under water swimming to the surface

As a species, we have a love-hate relationship with microbes. For centuries, we didn’t even know they existed. Then came the microscope and Louis Pasteur’s germ theory, and suddenly we could see that microorganisms were the cause of deathly diseases like bubonic plague, smallpox, and tuberculosis. The knowledge launched a war against microbes, resulting in new ways to treat and prevent infections that have doubled our lifespans.

But it wasn’t until recently that we realized that there are some microorganisms we can’t live without. Our bodies carry more than 100 trillion bacteria on our skin and in our mouths, noses, genitalia, and guts. These bacterial communities, collectively known as the human microbiome, can synthesize vitamins, bolster our immune systems, help us digest our food, and even boost our brain function.

Today, researchers at the Mayo Clinic’s Microbiome Program are using genetic sequencing and other technologies to become better acquainted with our bacteria and ourselves. Thus far, they have discovered the human microbiome does much more for us — both good and bad — than we ever imagined. Read the rest of the article on the Discovery's Edge blog.
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