The Extended Self II: the microbiology of celebrity

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Traditionally what we consider to be “self” is usually restricted to the collection of 10 trillion or so eukaryote cells that derive directly from our own genomes. However, the “omic” technologies of the 21st century are radically redefining this view, so that “self” can now be seen to extend beyond the traditional precinct of our visible form, and to include our resident bacterial community.  In fact, these normally invisible cells outnumber what we consider to be our own cells, by a factor of ten and contain at least ten times more DNA than our own genome.  The bacteria that reside on or in our bodies are not merely present as passengers, but they empower us with metabolic functions far beyond the range of our own physiological capabilities. They may even be able to influence our emotions. In this respect, the human body can now be considered to be a superorganism, that is, a “communal group of human and microbial cells (the bacterial symbiont) all working for the benefit of the collective”. These are complex bacterial communities isolated from widely known celebrities to highlight the fact, that at this funadamental level, and irrespective of race or creed, we are all the same.  

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