The Loh Down On Science

DNA Catalog

Groupies? We all have them. Who knew?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet geneticist George Weinstock of Washington University. He was curious about a recent project to catalog all human intestinal microbes. These microbes help us digest food, process nutrients, and generally support our health.

Weinstock noticed that the project didn’t involve DNA analysis. He wondered: Is there much genetic variety in gut microbes? Any patterns? Any surprises?

To find out, he worked with about 250 participants from the catalog project. Each provided Weinstock’s team with two stool samples, six months apart. For each sample, the team isolated about 100 common microbes. Then they analyzed these microbes’ genetic sequences.

Turns out each microbe’s DNA was unique to their person’s gut! And it didn’t change over a year! Gut microbes could be a genetic signature that stay with us our whole lives, like fingerprints, only messier.

The findings could lead to new ways to improve human health.

Or maybe a very special episode of CSI--Port-a-Potty edition. Sorry.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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