"We are not alone. When we are alone, we are never alone. This isn’t in the universal sense; there might be sentient life out there but I’m talking in the personal sense. When we are alone, by ourselves, we are not alone. Our bodies, the human body, are covered in symbiotic and complementary organisms. Let us forget about all the microscopic critters living in our hair follicles and focus on the bacteria instead. That’s what uBiome is focusing on as they map the human microbiome.
Whether we want to admit it or not, no matter how “icky” some of us find it to be, bacteria in our bodies actually protects us. Not all bacteria, of course, but a good lot of it. For some this is common knowledge, for others this is a constant revelation as they are reminded of that fact by their doctors in certain situations. In fact, bacterial cells outnumber human cells ten to one in the body. This community of bacterial genes and human cells is known as the microbiome, and offers up many secrets of the human body and how it operates.
The startup uBiome is crowdsourcing the sequencing and mapping of the human microbiome. This biotech out of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) is looking to work with citizen scientists in this era of personalized medicine by given them access to the latest high-throughput metagenomic sequencing technology. The question is, will people want or even consider wanting access to that kind of information, or know what to do with it? Frankly, in this age of constant trivial information, I’d presume yes.
Said uBiome CEO and co-founder Jessica Richman via press release, “We believe the biological information era is going to follow the same trend that the internet did. When citizens became empowered to explore the internet via search engines like Google, usage skyrocketed. With uBiome, people can explore their personal metagenome from home. This unparalleled access to the latest science is going to change things in a big way.”
Recently, the Human Microbiome Project brought the case of good bacteria to light. 200 scientists at 80 institutions over five years sequenced the genetic material of bacteria that was taken from 250 healthy people. What they found was close to a thousand bacterial strains on each person, and more important to uBiome and their mission, that each persons collection of microbes – their microbiome – was different from the next. Even better was the discovery of disease-causing bacteria, which was just harmlessly hanging out with the good bacteria...."