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  #1  
Old 06-14-2012, 08:06 AM
Hermitian Hermitian is offline
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How much of me is human vs. microbe

From All Things Considered on 13-June,

"'The human we see in the mirror is made up of more microbes than human,' said Lita Proctor of the National Institutes of Health, who's leading the Human Microbiome Project."

Read that quote again. I am not exactly sure what she is trying to say. I think what she is meaning to say is that there are more microbe entities than human cells.
Or is she implying that pound for pound, there is more microbe mass than human mass in and on me?

Other sites validate the former. I have a hard time believing the latter.

Last edited by Hermitian; 06-14-2012 at 08:09 AM..
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  #2  
Old 06-14-2012, 08:12 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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I read just this morning that the amount of microbes, if all gathered somehow, might actually add up to "a few pounds."
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Old 06-14-2012, 08:36 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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The human body contains trillions of microorganisms--out numbering human cells by 10 to one. Because of their small size, however, microorganisms make up only about one to three percent of the body's mass but play a vital role in human health.
http://news.yahoo.com/jcvi-researche...170206831.html
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Old 06-14-2012, 08:57 AM
Hermitian Hermitian is offline
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Ok. So I was right. The journalist probably just did what journalist do - completely bungle the meaning of any quote or concept even slightly scientific.
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Old 06-14-2012, 09:03 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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Not really. From the article, here is the paragraph that precedes the quote you posted:
Quote:
The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 of those cells is actually human. The rest are from bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms.
In that context, "more microbes" means the number of cells, not the weight of the microbiome.
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Old 06-14-2012, 09:10 AM
tdn tdn is offline
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Quote:
The human body contains trillions of microorganisms--out numbering human cells by 10 to one. Because of their small size, however, microorganisms make up only about one to three percent of the body's mass but play a vital role in human health.
So antibiotics wouldn't make such great weight loss pills?
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Old 06-14-2012, 09:18 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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Originally Posted by tdn View Post
So antibiotics wouldn't make such great weight loss pills?
If you killed all the microbes in your body, weight loss would be the least of your problems.
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Old 06-14-2012, 09:20 AM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
Not really. From the article, here is the paragraph that precedes the quote you posted:In that context, "more microbes" means the number of cells, not the weight of the microbiome.
There's an error if they are including viruses in the total of cells, since viruses are non-cellular.

As has been said, our bodies contain many more bacterial cells than human cells. However, the bacterial cells make up only a small percentage of our weight.
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Old 06-14-2012, 10:29 AM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
There's an error if they are including viruses in the total of cells, since viruses are non-cellular.
So, yes, they are screwing up anything even remotely scientific.
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Old 06-14-2012, 10:39 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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Originally Posted by Smeghead View Post
So, yes, they are screwing up anything even remotely scientific.
Not if they are comparing the number of microbes to the number of human cells. Many microbiologists include viruses as microbes.
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Old 06-14-2012, 11:05 AM
Darth Panda Darth Panda is offline
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Yeah, and how much of that are you really seeing in the mirror anyway? My guess would be roughly none.
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Old 06-14-2012, 11:14 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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So you are taking that statement literally?
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Old 06-14-2012, 11:16 AM
Darth Panda Darth Panda is offline
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Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
So you are taking that statement literally?
Well, yeah - kind of. Otherwise, I'm not sure what the reference to the mirror was for.
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Old 06-14-2012, 11:19 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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I'm guessing you find life very irritating.
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Old 06-14-2012, 11:31 AM
Darth Panda Darth Panda is offline
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Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
I'm guessing you find life very irritating.
Sometimes. Not today, though.

eta: Maybe it's just because we don't know each other well - but my sense of humor is pretty dry sometimes.

Last edited by Darth Panda; 06-14-2012 at 11:33 AM..
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  #16  
Old 06-14-2012, 12:05 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Darth, I might not know you very well, but I'm on quite good terms with your microbes.

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Old 06-14-2012, 12:34 PM
Dung Beetle Dung Beetle is offline
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You might enjoy this short story:

Fever Dream, by Ray Bradbury
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  #18  
Old 06-14-2012, 12:45 PM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
Not if they are comparing the number of microbes to the number of human cells. Many microbiologists include viruses as microbes.
In the quote in your second post, they are in fact comparing the number of human cells to the number of microbe cells, and even if you count viruses as "microbes" they don't have cells.
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Old 06-14-2012, 01:05 PM
TruCelt TruCelt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
I'm guessing you find life very irritating.
ROFL! There's nothing more amusing for the sarcasm-deficient than watching two dry-humour types reduced to fisticuffs because neither can recognize the other's attempt to joke.
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:18 PM
Darth Panda Darth Panda is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Darth, I might not know you very well, but I'm on quite good terms with your microbes.

Yeah, they grow on you.
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  #21  
Old 06-14-2012, 07:45 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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The vast majority of the microbes in your body are in your large intestine (a large part of feces is dead and living bacteria); the rest live on body surfaces like skin and inside body cavities; your actual flesh very likely has no microbes in it, or very few (your immune system will kill any that do penetrate skin or intestinal walls), so it isn't really accurate to say that your body is made up of x% microbes.
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  #22  
Old 06-14-2012, 08:54 PM
Hero From Sector 7G Hero From Sector 7G is offline
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If you take the "sack of space a human occupies" bacteria cells outnumber human cells by an order of magnitude.

However, all of this bacteria is technically outside the epidermis. A human is a tube within a tube, and your GI tract is protected by tissue similar to your skin. It would be disastrous if all that bacteria were allowed free entry into our body.

Edit: Much of the mentioned bacteria live on your skin and in your digestive tract.

The relationship with our bacteria is fascinating, and there is lots of neat research on the topic; from fecal transplants, to behavior modification.

Last edited by Hero From Sector 7G; 06-14-2012 at 08:57 PM..
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