How microbes define, shape — and might even heal us

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ideas.ted.com

As both a scientist and a human being, I am continually awestruck by discoveries about the power of the microbiome to define and shape us. But what excites me most is the very real prospect that, as we come to better understand and even influence the microbiome, it could have the power to heal us.

We’re already starting to link our microbes to a wide spectrum of specific diseases, from the obvious — like infectious diseases and inflammatory bowel disease — to surprising ones such as multiple sclerosis, autism, and depression.

It’s worth noting that just because we know a microbe is involved in a specific disease, it doesn’t mean the answer — or the cure — is to eliminate that microbe. In fact, doing so might cause irreversible damage. It may turn out that targeting diet or inhibiting an enzyme (that’s a protein that speeds up a particular chemical reaction) might be more effective than attacking the microbes directly. And yet the reason there is…

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