Today, the three classical biological explanations of the individual self--the immune system, the brain, the genome--are being challenged by the new field of microbiome research. Evidence shows that our resident microbes orchestrate the adaptive immune system, influence the brain, and contribute more gene functions than our own genome. The realization that humans are not individual, discrete entities but rather the outcome of ever-changing interactions with microorganisms has consequences beyond the biological disciplines. In particular, it calls into question the assumption that distinctive human traits set us apart from all other animals--and therefore also the traditional disciplinary divisions between the arts and the sciences.
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Biological Variation, Individual*
Brain / physiology
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) https://www.metaorganism-research.com/
(grant number CRC1182 "Origin and function of Metaorganisms"). Received by TB. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) https://www.cifar.ca/research/humans-the-microbiome/
(grant number “Humans & the Microbiome” program). Received by TR and TB. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.