Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Space Invaders

Several days ago, I was listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR, where Terry interviewed Jeffrey Gordon, a professor who studies human microbial cells that are found in and on the body. The news item, Bacterial Bonanza: Microbes Keep Us Alive, first intrigued me and now, it has me deep in thought.

According to Gordon, human cells are not the only cells found within the human body. In fact, he states that human cells represent a mere 10% of a human being. What about the other 90%?


That's right, we are primarily microbial. Trillions upon trillions of cells comprise the human body, but only 1 in 10 is human. I have many questions I'd like answered:

So, what are we? What portion of our bodies is human? Are specific parts of the body solely human? What about the brain?

Not only am I forced to ask what we are, but also to ask whether they communicate with each other.

Furthermore, isn't it possible that humans behave in a manner that is intended to perpetuate the microbes? I mean, what if foods we crave are only a reflection of the needs of the microbes?

I also imagine a battle of Good v. Evil. Probiotics help bacteria grow, while anti-biotics destroy them. In people with systemic infections such as bowel diseases and candida, it's suggested that the good microbes have been replaced with bad ones. The bad ones crave bad stuff, carbohydrates, simple sugars, fats. The Baddies don't want you to be healthy, so they tell your brain that you'd rather have a piece of chocolate mousse pie instead of that nice, leafy, green salad.

People say they are "addicted" to unhealthy foods. Well, people, that's the microbes talking.

They also want you to procreate... spread your microbial self all over the Earth. So far, so good. This symbiotic relationship is working fantastically! And soon, we will conquer the world!


Then I was thinking about the concept of Self.

Myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, etc...

That's kind of imaginary, no? Perhaps, we should all refer to ourselves in the 3rd person like this, "We (which, in this case, is just me) would like purchase those amazing Betsey Johnson shoes from Nordstrom," you know, the way royalty would do?

It's strange. I am Jungle Girl, you are you- I have had individual life experiences that tell me that I am separate from you and that I am an individual, unique unto myself.

We are unique unto ourselves... that is, my microbes and I.

I foretell new arguments arising:

"My microbes are faster than your microbes."

"Yeah well, your microbes came from that pork shoulder, they're fat and make you crap liquid."

Perhaps, this can be used a new line of defense, "Your Honor, it wasn't I who embezzled that 500 million, it was my microbes! I was outnumbered!"

What if we can open a line of communication with the microbes, like a consciousness expansion that allows us to heal ourselves at a molecular level. "You! Escherichia, Lactobacillus attack those cancer cells!"

Actually, research suggests that microbes do just that. Milk bacteria actually kills cancerous tumors. Some doctors inject good microbes in order to help rid a population of harmful cells. The harmful cells are defeated and the healthy cells grow. Just Google it- as there are far too many articles to list here. I like Google Scholar, as the articles are peer-reviewed sources.

This frozen microbe was thawed after 120,000 years... I don't know about you, but this guy looks pretty tough, like he's sitting atop an adversary saying, "What? What'd you say? No body talks to me that way!"

For me, survival of the fittest just took on an entirely new meaning.