The most interesting part about the microbiome is its absolute vastness. They outnumber our cells ten to one, and are made up of many different groups of living organisms. They can help digest food, regulate the immune system, produce vitamins, and even fight against bad infectious bacteria.
The microbiome is a large regulator in health. When we are first born, our microbiome is decided by our DNA as well as what bacteria, fungi, protista, etc. that we receive when exiting the birth canal. From there, we also acquire a lot our microbiome from breast feeding. The mother is whom first dictates the offsprings microbiome. However, later on, it is often based upon what an individual consumes within their body. We all usually have both symbiotic (good for the body), and pathogenic (bad for the body) microbiota, and are usually in balance. However, due to poor diet, overuse of antibiotics, infectious illness, etc. the microbiome can get out of order. When out of order, it can cause a large number of autoimmune disorders, from diabetes to MS.
The first evidence of the human microbiome being observed was in the 1680’s, when Antonie van Leewenhoek (a Dutch merchant), noticed that the microbes being sampled from the mouth were largely different from those sampled from stool. Later on, there were links found between microbiota and diseases, and then later still, the connection between the microbiome and the wellbeing of the human body. This was explored further and more fully through the Human Microbiome Project.
The Human Microbiome Project, or the HMP (established in 2008), is an organization with its primary function being to discover the ways in which the human body relies on the microbiome for its functionality, as well as looking at non-human organisms within us. Originally, HMP was a single study looking at only 300 patients, but it has grown so much larger!
The good work done by the HMP is being used to look into alternative methods to treat patients with serious diseases, as well as looking for the plane in which the microbiome fits into the causation and treatment.
by Mason Holmes