Microbiome Research Challenges Classical Concept of Self

first_imgNew research suggests humans are not the individual, unique characters we believe ourselves to be.It turns out, we’re actually a walking, talking collection of trillions of organisms. (A “megaorganism,” if you will.)“Evidence shows that our resident microbes orchestrate the adaptive immune system, influence the brain, and contribute more gene functions than our own genome,” according to an article published in the open-access journal PLOS.The three classic biological explanations for the individual self—the immune system, the brain, the genome—are being “challenged,” the study said, by the new field of microbiome research.The more scientists learn about the microbiome, the less the idea of humans as a singular organism rings true.“There is now overwhelming evidence that normal development as well as the maintenance of the organism depends on the microorganisms (collectively the microbiome) that we harbor,” the article states.Comprising about half the cells in our body, microbes wield great power over the human brain, immune system, and gene functions.“The realization that humans are not individual, discrete entities but rather the outcome of ever-changing interactions with microorganisms has consequences beyond the biological disciplines,” study authors Tobias Rees of McGill University, Thomas Bosch from the University of Kiel, and Angela Douglas of Cornell University explained.This is not to say that humans are not unique; look around and you’ll see that we are all different from each other. The real takeaway is that our uniqueness doesn’t come just from genetics or our brains, but also from the hoards of other organisms crawling around us.“The challenge is big, the opportunity even bigger: It is time, and perhaps past time, to rethink collaboratively—beyond arts and science divisions—what it means to be a living human being at home in a microbial world, one on which we depend and with which we are inseparably interwoven,” the researchers said.“Microbiome science has the exciting—and important—potential to catalyze the breakdown of the anachronistic barriers between the natural and the human sciences and enable a truly integrated understanding of what it means to be human, after the illusion of the bounded, individual self.”After all: “The human is more than the human.” Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Warning: Don’t read this if you struggle with your sense of self.last_img read more