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PLoS Biol. 2018 Feb 9;16(2):e2005358. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2005358. eCollection 2018 Feb.

How the microbiome challenges our concept of self.

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Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Zoological Institute and Interdisciplinary Research Center Kiel Life Science, University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany.
Department of Entomology & Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.


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.

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