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Biomedical Research

What is the Microbiome?

Microbes are small living creatures. They exist in humans and make up the microbiome. The microbiome was often overlooked, but new research shows that it can influence many systems in your body.

Introduction

Microbes are small living creatures that are found all over us and that are too delicate to be seen by the naked eye. They can be found everywhere, on your water bottle, in the soil, in the air, and even inside your body. The human body is home to millions of these bacteria, also called microorganisms. Microbes can be split into six overarching groups: these include several species, including bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists, viruses, and other microscopic creatures. This population of single or multiple-celled species can be prokaryotes or eukaryotes, depending on whether they have a nucleus.

6 Types of Microbes

Microbes can be classified into six groups. The first of which are bacteria, which are usually unicellular, microscopic, prokaryotic organisms which reproduce by binary fission. The second type is fungi, which can be separated into yeasts and molds. Yeasts are typically unicellular, small, eukaryotic fungi that replicate asexually by budding. Molds are usually filamentous, eukaryotic fungi that replicate using the development of asexual reproductive spore. The third type is submicroscopic viruses, acellular infectious particles that can only replicate inside a living host cell. The fourth is protozoa, microscopic, eukaryotic organisms that lack a cell wall. And finally, the last group, algae, which are eukaryotic organisms that survive through photosynthesis.

Microbes and Humans

Since microbes are everywhere, humans have learned to live mutually alongside them. We offer them food and shelter, and they work for us. This partnership starts from the very beginning; as soon as we are born billions of bacteria cover our bodies. Mother’s milk, for example, contains special sugars that are designed to feed and sustain certain classes of microbes. Others act as a decoy, helping to amplify the immune response. In just around two years, a healthy community of microbes will have formed in a child. This is known as the microbiome.

The Microbiome

Each human being has its own special microbiome, composed of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other species. We have three groups of visitors, both on and in our bodies. There are good microbes, which aid in digestion and absorption of calories. A second type is silent travelers who do their own thing and are respectfully dismissed. They free up space by being there to keep more hostile intruders in line. We also have more dangerous ones. Such as those which exist in our teeth and will and erode our teeth if we do not brush them. The main functions of the microbes in our body include regulating the immune system, supplying nutrients to our cells, and avoiding invasion by dangerous bacteria and viruses.

Importance in the Body

At first glance it may seem like the microbiome does not play a big role in your body. However, this is wrong, as the influence of the microbiome goes very far. The response to certain things is determined by the microbiomes in your body, such as how different people respond differently to different foods. The species in our intestine feed on various things, some of the fibers and leafy greens, other sugars and starches, and some of them enjoy greasy food like butter. Our gut is like a garden in which we continually decide what is going to expand and blossom. If we eat good food, we breed good bacteria that prefer healthy food. If we eat a lot of junk food, we’re going to breed the microbes that enjoy fast food. If you choose to eat more healthy food, healthier bacteria will multiply. If you choose to eat more unhealthy food the unhealthy microbes will multiply. They will then send signals to your brain asking for more of what it likes.  Scientists have observed that 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut. Other examples are bacteria that activate immune cells in the intestine such that they give a kind of alarm signal to the brain. Here, it stimulates immune cells that aid the brain heal from damage. New research is being done that even links microbes to behavioral patterns. In fact, in recent years, the gut microbiome has been linked to a plethora of diseases and disorders, from diabetes to autism to schizophrenia to obesity. 

Future Advancements

The future is uncertain as the new science surrounding the microbiome is still developing. Since the microbiome is linked to many conditions, there may be a way to create treatments by altering the microbiome. However, we need to figure out why some microbes are beneficial while others are not. The relationship between humans and microbes is one that has been fostered over many years. It is safe to say that we rely on microbes and they rely on us.

References

Harshal Chinthala, Youth Medical Journal 2020

Videvall, A., Brown, A., Xu, A., Shi, A., Jiang, A., Petrof, A., . . . Weiss, A. (2020, October 12). Microbiome. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/

Davis, N. (2018, March 26). The human microbiome: Why our microbes could be key to our health. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/26/the-human-microbiome-why-our-microbes-could-be-key-to-our-health

Jesus, E., Lee, J., & Wilke, C. (1969, December 31). Microbes. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.sciencenews.org/topic/microbes

Society, M. (n.d.). Microbes and disease: Microbes and the human body. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://microbiologysociety.org/why-microbiology-matters/what-is-microbiology/microbes-and-the-human-body/microbes-and-disease.html

By Harshal Chinthala

Harshal Chinthala is student in Kansas City. He is interested in the fields of neurology and cardiology.

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