The Human Microbiome: The Origin
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Microbes are at the origin of all life forms on this planet. They are the first inhabitants, have played and are playing a pivotal role in shaping most living organisms that followed thereafter. The major driving force dictating life is energy. The capture of solar power by the chloroplast, a specialized microbe and the release of energy in the cells by the mitochondrion, another specialized microbe, were central to the emergence of higher organisms. As nature tends to utilize ingredients available in its midst to build, mould and customize its occupants, microbes were a natural choice for this bioengineering task. Hence, microbes became part of most if not all living organisms. They live as symbiotic partners, supply essential nutrients, act as guards and shape morphological and physiological attributes. Although the presence of microbes housed in specific locations in numerous organisms has been detected before, their beneficial interaction with humans has only recently begun to be appreciated. The discovery of new molecular visualization technologies is providing an unprecedented view of the intimate relationship humans have forged with microbial partners. In fact, the vast majority of cells we harbor are microbial in origin. The entirety of microbes living within and on us, referred to as the microbiome, is an integral part of the human body, just like the visible organs such as the heart and the eye. Our understanding of the development and functions of this invisible organ is in its infancy. As more information on this body part is elucidated, its involvement in our well-being and on who we are will become indisputable. Once the molecular details of the human microbiome are unveiled, our lives and our society will change forever.
KeywordsHuman microbiome origin microbe mitochondrion chloroplast energy symbiosis fermentation molecular visualization invisible organ indispensable omnipresent
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