Archives for the day of: January 12, 2011

From Environmental Science & Technology:

The old adage that people are known by the company they keep probably doesn’t refer to the trillions of microbes living on the human body—but it might as well. Although you may be influenced by the thousands of individuals you will meet in your lifetime, at this very moment there are more bacteria hanging out just in the palms your hands than there are humans on Earth. And the astonishing diversity of microbes that inhabit every inch of your skin as well as your gut profoundly influences your quality of life—mostly for good—from the moment you are born until the day you die.

Humans rely on our human microbiome to perform essential functions, such as protecting us from persistent pathogens, building essential vitamins, and providing us with digestive enzymes that we need to break down plant fibers for energy. Many seemingly human characteristics are also partially shaped by our bacterial shell, such as whether we are skinny or fat and how we smell. The microbes cohabitating our body outnumber human cells by a factor of 10, making us actually “superorganisms” that use our own genetic repertoire as well as those of our microbial symbionts, says Julie Segre, who works on the Human Microbiome Project at the National Human Genome Research Institute, in Bethesda, Md. We just happen to look human because our human cells are much larger than bacterial cells (C&EN, July 20, 2009, page 43).

In the past three years, several large-scale projects to map the diversity and activities of our microbial family began, in hopes of finding connections between our microbiome, health, and disease. The National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project and the European Union’s Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT) program are probably two of the best known. These and other projects are starting to reveal that “every part of the body has its own ecosystem,” says Rob D. Knight, a biochemist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Our bodies provide microbes with a diversity of habitats, much like the multitude of landscapes on Earth. The damp rainforest of our armpits, the anaerobic swamp of our gut, and the dry surface of our elbows recruit unique populations of bacteria. As researchers investigate the microbes in these uncharted territories, they are learning about humanity’s rapport with our microbial cohabitants and how that relationship affects obesity, attraction, diet, drug metabolism, and ailments as diverse as Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.

More . . .

From Documentary Website:

ON COAL RIVER takes viewers on a gripping emotional journey into the Coal River Valley of West Virginia — a community surrounded by lush mountains and a looming toxic threat. The film follows a former coal miner and his neighbors in a David-and-Goliath struggle for the future of their valley, their children, and life as they know it.

Ed Wiley is a former coal miner who once worked at a toxic waste facility that now threatens his granddaughter’s elementary school.  When his local government refuses to act, Ed embarks on a quest to have the school relocated to safer ground.  With insider knowledge and a sharp sense of right and wrong, Ed confronts his local school board, state government, and a notorious coal company — Massey Energy — for putting his granddaughter and his community at risk.

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