Microbes are tiny organisms that you can only see with a microscope. Bacteria, fungi and viruses are all examples of microbes. Microbes (short for microbial life) are everywhere! They are in deep oceans, in the air we breathe, in the soil surrounding plants...and even inside your digestive tract!
There are many types of helpful microbes. For example, microbes in the soil help with environmental processes like the nitrogen cycle. Microbes in the human digestive tract help you get as many nutrients from the food you eat as possible.
But there are microbes that aren’t helpful, as well. Some microbes can hijack the gene of their host and can lead to certain diseases. For example, microbes can play a role in inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Did you know? The human gut contains trillions of microbes.
Researchers have found that microbes can alter gene expression in the cells of their host. They activate certain genes which are responsible for causing diseases. They also deactivate certain proteins that protect you from diseases.
There is other research happening as well. For example, Dan Knight, a computational microbiologist at the University of Minnesota, has studied wild primates, primates in zoos, and humans. He has found that monkeys who move into captivity from the wild end up with less microbe diversity in their guts. This can lead them to sickness and even death. He has also found that another group of primates experiences gut changes when they change environments. That group is humans!
Want to learn more about Dan Knight’s research on microbes in your gut? Watch the video below!
So why does this research affect you? Obesity and diet are two of the main factors that can cause microbes to hijack your digestive system. This can lead to diseases. Just another reason why it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and stay active!
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Bacteria living in our gut hijacking and controlling our genes (2018)
Microbiota Regulate Intestinal Epithelial Gene Expression by Suppressing the Transcription Factor Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 Alpha (2017)
Microbes seen controlling action of host's genes: Microbes muck up molecular machinery to influence health (2017)
Crohn's Disease Symptoms, Causes, Diet, Treatment, and Life Expectancy, (Accessed 2018)
Functional Metagenomics of the Human Gut and Prebiotic Breakdown Pathways (Accessed 2018)
Genetics and Cenomics Wiki
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The importance of studying the microbes living in your gut (2018)