The human superorganism

The study of man Normally, I try to steer people away from the controversial journal Medical Hypotheses, with its policy of publishing on editorial whim rather than peer review. Every once in a while they surprise us by publishing something decent. This is one such article:

Albert Einstein once said that “The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self”. For years our traditional view of ‘self’ was restricted to our own bodies; composed of eukaryote cells encoded by our genome. However, in the era of omics technologies and systems biology, this view now extends beyond the traditional limitations of our own core being to include our resident microbial communities. These prokaryote cells outnumber our own cells by a factor of ten and contain at least ten times more DNA than our own genome. In exchange for food and shelter, this symbiont provides us, the host, with metabolic functions far beyond the scope of our own physiological capabilities. In this respect the human body can be considered a superorganism; a communal group of human and microbial cells all working for the benefit of the collective – a view which most certainly attains liberation from self.

The human superorganism – of microbes and men. Medical Hypotheses 2010 74(2): 214-215


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One Response to The human superorganism

  1. Ed Rybicki says:

    It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that everything biological in our world – with the possible exception of hydrogen-eating chemolithoautotrophs found in deep crustal rock – only has relevance in the context of other organisms. We form a superorganism with out attendant microbes; cooperative bacteria in biofilms make a nonsense of the concept of the “isolated organism” reductionist approach of most traditional microbiologists.

    Commensalomics or symbiomics, that’s what we need…B-)

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