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Wed June 13, 2012
Study Maps Microbial Cells
Researchers have completed the most comprehensive census to date of the trillions of microbes living in and on the human body.
The associate director of Washington University’s Genome Institute, George Weinstock, was one of the project’s lead researchers. He says we have about ten times more microbial cells in our body than we have human cells: “If we add up all the genes in those microbes, there’s probably a hundred times or more microbial genes in our body than there are genes in our human genome. So the microbes, they’re not just a small little part of us, they’re really a very, very large, perhaps almost dominant part of our body.”
Weinstock says we still don’t know what most of these microorganisms are doing in our bodies, but that many are beneficial, helping us digest our food or protecting us from disease. The five-year, 153-million-dollar Human Microbiome Project was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The results are published in the journal Nature and several journals of the Public Library of Science.