My June 19 post was about the exciting study of our microbiomes. A microbiome is the entire assemblage of bacteria that live in any one human being, or other animal. Your microbiome is different from mine. We might have a lot of the same species of bacteria inhabiting our bodies, but in different amounts. Or you might have some species I don't have, and vice versa.
We now know that only 10% of our cells are human. The other 90% are bacterial. Since our species, and for that matter, all animal species, evolved in a bacterial world, we depended on our resident bacteria from the very start. We actually can’t survive well without them In fact, maybe we shouldn’t think of them as “resident.” Maybe we should think of them as part of us!
Vast quantities of bacteria live in our gut. They break down food, like cellulose from plants, that we can’t break down ourselves. They manufacture vitamins we need, like the B-group and vitamin K. They regulate the amount of acid in our stomachs.
Recently, researchers have begun to think some of our bacteria actually “teach” our immune systems how to function. In particular, our bacteria may regulate our "killer T-cells," such as the one in the micro-photo I've posted today.
How amazing: we may have evolved to need certain bacteria to regulate the immune systems we had come to think of as nearly supernatural in their ability to fight off infection.
How intriguing: this immune regulation may have something to do with rising rates of asthma.