2009: Think Microbial

Happy New Year. I'm proclaiming 2009 the "Year of the Microbe."

By year's end, the Human Oral Microbiome Project is slated to identify and name the 600 varieties of microbes that reside in our mouths. That's in addition to the 1,000 species already identified in our guts. 
Tiny microbes are a huge part of us. Our bodies have 10 trillion cells of our own and 100 trillion microbes that call us their home. Our microbes weigh almost as much as our livers.
The DNA in our resident microbes contains 60,000 genes, double the amount of our own. That extra endowment of genes from microbes allows us to do things we couldn't do on our own. Scientists already know that microbes help us synthesize vitamins and break down fiber we can't digest. As knowledge emerges from microbiome studies, we'll likely discover that it's just the tip of the iceberg.
In the future, medicine may very well analyze and work in cooperation with our resident microbes to influence our health and heal our disease. In 2009, we can learn from the success of our own microbiome.
Challenging times and dwindling resources demand new approaches. Let's think microbial. If our organizations take smaller, well-planned steps and harness the power of interdependence, we can accomplish great things. Our 100 trillion microbes can't be wrong. 
—Tom DeSanto
Source: "Life on Man," Alun Anderson, The World in 2009 from The Economist, Image: www.genome.gov

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