Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Through the Teeming Jungles of Microbes

The human body is an ecosystem, Lita Proctor, director of the Human Microbiome Project at the US National Institutes of Health, tells Rob Stein from NPR's Morning Edition as he embarks on a tour of the human microbiome. While there are distinct habitats, Stein notes that the microbes living in each do communicate with one another and with host cells.

In the segment, Stein finds that the mouth is home to diverse microorganisms — the Amazonian jungle of the body, he calls it — and Proctor notes that the microbes living on the roof of the mouth differ from those found on the tongue. Similarly, the armpit is also a lush area for microorganisms. The most diverse area, Stein adds, is the gut.

"There is apparently a role for the microbiome in the way diet is metabolized and how fat is deposited," Proctor says, adding that there is a close link between changes in the microbiome and obesity.

Stein notes that obese people appear to have less diverse microbiomes than lean people do. He adds that there also tentative links between antibiotic use, increased cleanliness, and other facets of modern life, like increased C-sections, that may lead to less contact with microoganisms and thus less diverse microbiomes and then, possibly, to diseases like obesity or asthma.

The Scan

Foxtail Millet Pangenome, Graph-Based Reference Genome

Researchers in Nature Genetics described their generation of a foxtail millet pangenome, which they say can help in crop trait improvement.

Protein Length Distribution Consistent Across Species

An analysis in Genome Biology compares the lengths of proteins across more than 2,300 species, finding similar length distributions.

Novel Genetic Loci Linked to Insulin Resistance in New Study

A team reports in Nature Genetics that it used glucose challenge test data to home in on candidate genes involved in GLUT4 expression or trafficking.

RNA Editing in Octopuses Seems to Help Acclimation to Shifts in Water Temperature

A paper in Cell reports that octopuses use RNA editing to help them adjust to different water temperatures.