Monday, September 12, 2011

Human augmentation substrate: the microbiome

The human microbiome, comprising 10x human cells, is interesting not only for its significant role in determining health, disease, drug response, and individuality, but also in possibly being a less-invasive human augmentation substrate, for example, bringing nanoscale connectivity and memory processing modules onboard via the microbiome.

New research has identified that only five microbial lineages exist on humans: firmicutes, bacteriodetes, actinobacteria, proteobacteria, and other phyla which is surprising compared to the diversity of microbial phyla on Earth. However, within the lineages, there are many strains and species, for example 1,600-2,000 distal gut species of microbial bacteria in each person, only 7% of which were known previously (paper). Gut bacteria is critical to human functioning, one activity is producing butyrate in colon epithelial cells to maintain energy homeostasis. (paper, article)

The microbiome is a complex adaptive system: resilience and vulnerability
Research extends beyond characterization - an investigation of perturbations to the human microbiome has shown resilience in recovery following a disturbance. However there is vulnerability with persistent perturbation. The human microbiome may not reassume its initial state unless the disturbance is at a frequency that the system has experienced before and for some time. In this case, the system may get stuck in an alternative state or local maximum. (paper).

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