I’ve recently learned that what I used to think of as me, is actually a whole lot of bacteria and just a little bit of human: Meaning that about ninety percent of the cells in my body don’t even have my DNA.
The concept that ninety percent of the reflection I get when I look at in the mirror is just bacteria might be understandable based on what I actually look like when I wake up in the morning, but I still feel it is a surprise, and I’m also a little concerned, because my wife just nodded as if she already knew the problem when I shared that fact with her.
Knowing that every body that walks past me in the mall is mostly made of bacteria, and that even includes the nice looking ones, makes me do most of my shopping on the Internet.
Now I’m just teasing, of course, because all those non-me cells just weigh in at about five pounds and the “me” cells are a lot heavier than that.
Right before we’re born when were are still safely snuggled up in a fetal position in the womb, we are just ourselves, but the moment we stick our head out into this world we get invaded by a plethora of other organisms that soon become the voting majority. In total, the DNA of these non-human species have several hundred times the number of genes we brought with us into this world.
The whole mix is referred to as the human biome and it consists of at least a thousand separate living organisms: Some which are always good, some which are sometimes good, and some which are always bad if they can get away with it.
Science has known for a long time that bacteria can cause disease, and that some of the bacteria within us is the good kind that helps in digestion and keeps our need for chocolate flavored Ex-Lax down. But what is fascinating from this new research is just how often the decisions on what we do is controlled by the bacteria, and not the stuff that has our DNA. Feel amorous when you have a cold? It’s just the bacteria trying to get you to spread it to someone else. Eat a lot and you still don’t feel full? Well taking to many antibiotics when you were young killed off one of the good/bad bugs called H pylori.
So instead of thinking of my reflection as being me, I started thinking about calling it my team. I realize that some members of the team are constantly trying to take over and kill their leader, but I also know that the majority will accept my leadership unless I do something stupid.
But I’ve got to go, my wife has a cold and she’s giving me the eye.