Microbiome: our second genome

The condition of our microbiome is the key to a healthy immune system and may play a determining role in improved quality of the ageing process.

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Research into the microbiome involves studying imbalances in the composition and function of intestinal flora in relation to diet and its influence on chronic inflammatory conditions and the frailty of the person in general. The objective: to prevent and improve people’s health through nutritional programmes and dietary changes.

“A healthy microbiome may ensure improved quality of the ageing process, with less frailty.”

Doctor Bonaventura Clotet, Head of the Infectious Diseases Service at the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in Badalona, Director of the IrsiCaixa Institute of Aids Research and President of the Fight Against Aids Foundation.

The human body contains about 37 trillion different cells, but of these only 10% are human cells. The rest belong to the nearly 100 trillion microbes that can be found in each and every one of us.

The hundreds of microbial species with which we share our body live (and die) in different parts of the body: the surface of the skin, tongue, nostrils or neck etc. But it is in the intestines where the majority are found, forming a universe of their own. Thanks to advances in technology, scientists are just now beginning to explore this universe, up to now largely undiscovered.

More than 99% of our genetic data is, in fact, information which comes from this community of microbes, our microbiome. And it seems increasingly likely that this “second genome”, as it is sometimes called, has a great influence over our health. Perhaps an even greater influence than that exerted by the genes we inherit from our parents. Inherited genes are more or less fixed and unchangeable. However, it seems that the second genome, which provides the microbiome, may be remodelled and even regenerated.

Microbiota, the bacterial population which exists in our bodies, plays a key role in various aspects of our organism. Human and microbial health are intrinsically linked. Disorders in our microbial internal ecosystem, such as a loss of diversity, or the proliferation of the “wrong” species, may cause a predisposition to obesity, metabolic problems a whole range of chronic diseases as well as some infections

Fight AIDS Foundation project.

 

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