In every person, microbes outnumber human cells by a factor of ten. Dr. Rob Knight studies the diversity of microbial communities and has found that large populations of microbes differ, based on which part of the body they inhabit; for example, the head, hands, gut or mouth.
Microbes vary widely in type from person to person. Unlike the human genome which is 99.9% alike from person to person, people are 80 to 90% different in their microbial make up. Dr. Knight shares what the microbiome project has been able to learn about these variances among the microbes on and in us and how probiotic therapies might be developed to help treat specific issues related to a person’s microbiome.
Ecosystem level therapies such as stool transplants that recolonize a person’s gut microbiome have shown promising results. The question then is, do we know enough about therapies that alter someone’s microbial flora to avoid the same kind of problems that non-native species have wreaked on other natural environments? Dr. Knight also discusses a project he’s been working on in Bangladesh which brings powerful computing analysis to scientists who don’t have the resources to utilize advanced computing in their research.
(Filmed in Vancouver, Canada at the 2012 AAAS meeting).