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June 22, 2016 Comments (0) Views: 427 Biotech, Summer 2016

The Next Big Thing: Meet Your Microbiome

Bacteria are everywhere, and most of them are rad

Defined

You are a walking ecosystem. Our bodies are home to hundreds of trillions of microscopic bacteria, viruses, and fungi collectively called microbes. Unlike our genes, we’re not born with them. We gather them throughout our lives, the very first coming via the birth canal. Microbes also live in soil, on plants, and in the ocean and atmosphere. Whether it’s in your gut, your mouth, your poop (see below), or on your skin, bacteria are everywhere. Yes, some are bad. But most are rad. Expect to hear a lot more about them soon.

High Tech

At UC San Diego’s Center for Microbiome Innovation, researchers are working on nanotechnology sensors that reach inside single cells, and drones that map the global microbiome and link to climate models.

Systems Affected:

  • Agriculture
  • Water treatment
  • Animal health
  • Energy production
  • Skin care

Holy Crap!

Looking for the Good in E. coli

Salk Institute researcher Janelle Ayres found a strain of fecal E. coli bacteria that, when given to animals infected with salmonella, cured them.

Poop Pills

Massachusetts General Hospital is studying how microbes affect weight, by giving obese patients pills containing a small dose of fecal matter from a thin person.

Participate

You can have your gut microbiome sequenced for $99 at americangut.org. Learn more about it on UCSD’s podcast N Equals One, on iTunes.

Collaborate

The international Probiotics Congress hosts three conferences a year—in London, Kuala Lumpur, and La Jolla.

Infectious Beats

University of Utah researchers made an entire EP dedicated to the microbiome. Download tracks like “Your Microbial Friends Part 1” and “Agent Antibiotic” at learn.genetics.utah.edu.

“Imagine a smart toothbrush that’ll tell you if you’ll get cavities, or a patch on your skin that’ll say if you’ll get dermatitis […] Instead of telling you where your microbiome is right now, we could predict where it’ll be in the future and how you can personally modify that.”—Rob Knight, The Atlantic, October 2015

By the Numbers

$121m

federal research dollars have been allocated for the new national initiative to study personal and environmental microbiomes.

$12m

UC San Diego research dollars will go toward examining how our microbiome could treat asthma, diabetes, obesity, and mental illness.

90%

of the cells in your body are bacterial, not human.

1.2m

new genes were discovered by genetics pioneer Craig Venter on a trip to sample ocean microbes

3 lbs

The collective weight of all the bacteria, fungi, and viruses in your body.

$1b

is spent in the U.S. per year on antibacterial cleaners

2m

people worldwide are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria

23k

people die each year as a direct result of these infections

$90k

is the average salary of a microbiome scientist in San Diego, according to indeed.com

Get into it by studying:

  • Microbiology
  • Computer Science
  • Math

View this as an infographic »

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