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A limited perspective on the human microbiome

To think of a microbiome as an organ creates a limited perspective because organs are relatively set. Generally, a heart will develop and remain the same in each person. But a microbiome is not one thing. It's trillions of things and responds to small changes in our diet, environment, and behavior. It works together with the human body in a symbiotic relationship.

Each metaphor can only capture a part of what the microbiome is. We need all the metaphors to understand the complexity of the microbiome and its role in our bodies.

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The human microbiome

The human microbiome

The human body is made up of trillions of human cells. There are possibly three times as many microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and other microbes) living in and on the human body. The microbial communities in and on the human body are known as the human microbiome.

The mic...

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Using metaphors to describe microbiomes

Metaphors that scientists use to talk about the microbiome influence scientific understanding and can shape medical treatment. For example, viewing the microbiome as an "organ" or a "part of the immune system."

Some physicians support fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT...

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The human microbiome

The human microbiome

The human body is made up of trillions of human cells. There are possibly three times as many microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and other microbes) living in and on the human body. The microbial communities in and on the human body are known as the human microbiome.

The mic...

The Single Perspective Instinct

The Single Perspective Instinct

A single perspective can limit your imagination; look at problems from many angles to get a more accurate understanding and find practical solutions.

  • Test your ideas. Have people who disagree with you test your ideas and find their weaknesses.
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