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Stanford Medicine

Microbiology, Research

Contemplating how our human microbiome influences personal health

As previously reported on Scope, researchers at Stanford and elsewhere are engaged in ongoing efforts to determine how microscopic ecosystems that exist in the human body may impact personal health. Today, an opinion piece on Scientific American’s Observations blog examines how our evolving understanding of this microbiome community influence the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

Christine Gorman writes:

The latest research into the genetics of the human microbiome is taking to a whole new level the old (and not always fruitful) argument about whether nature or nurture is a more important influence in our lives.

The point is that the microbes that live inside, on and around us all ultimately come from the environment. And these commensal bacteria shape our lives every bit as much as our genetic inheritance does. In fact, in many cases, the genes found in these microbes allow us to do something—like digest the fiber in oranges—that our own genes cannot.

The old dichotomy of nature vs. nurture is meaningless when what we think of as our nature—namely the genes that make us who we are—can come from our parents or our microbes.

Previously: Study shows intestinal microbes may fall into three distinct categories, Your own unique microbial cachet?, Your bacterial birthday suit reveals the mode of your birth, Study links bacteria in gut to size of a “gut” and The future of probiotics
Photo by Wellcome Images

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