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Mundo de microbios

Posted by WEBMASTER on June 18, 2012 at 5:20 PM

¿Cuántos microbios viven en nuestro cuerpo?

"Cuando me levanto de la silla, se levantan conmigo diez veces más células bacterianas que humanas", dice Bruce Birren.

Él es uno de los cientos de científicos estadounidenses que están elaborando el mayor mapa hecho hasta ahora de los microbios que viven dentro de nosotros.

El Human Microbiome Project (Proyecto del Microbioma Humano) ha catalogado muchas de las bacterias, virus y otros organismos que viven en contacto íntimo con nosotros.

No se trata de gérmenes que necesitan ser eliminados, sino de una parte fundamental de nuestro organismo, precisan los investigadores.

Hasta ahora conocíamos muy poco sobre los billones de microbios que habitan en nuestros cuerpos.

Durante siglos, solo podíamos investigar los microbios que sobreviven en un laboratorio y estudiarlos aisladamente; a menudo solo de uno en uno.

Pero con la mejora de las tecnologías que secuencian el ADN, el Proyecto del Microbioma Humano ha sido capaz de descubrir microbios que no habían sido vistos antes y observar cómo se comportan en comunidad.

"Bichos beneficiosos"

Buena parte de los resultados de este proyecto que comenzó hace cinco años han sido publicados en las revistas Nature y PLoS.

Los expertos de los Institutos Nacionales de Salud de EE.UU. extrajeron muestras de microbios de más de 200 hombres y mujeres en buen estado de salud.

Y las pruebas mostraron que hay más de 10.000 diferentes tipos de organismos en el microbioma de un humano sano.

La mayoría de ellos parecen no ser dañinos. De hecho, cada vez hay más pruebas de que estos microbios nos benefician de distintas maneras.

Algunos nos permiten obtener energía de la comida y otros nos ayudan a absorber nutrientes, como las vitaminas.

Los científicos están interesados en particular en saber por qué estas bacterias dejan de cumplir a veces su función.

"Ahora tenemos un listado telefónico de cien de estos microbios, que en un determinado medio ambiente, pueden convertirse en malos", dice Curtis Huttenhower, de la Escuela de Salud Pública de Harvard, otro de los colaboradores del proyecto.

Huttenhower explica que la capacidad de consultar esta nueva base genética y de investigar los microbios que dejan de cumplir su función será de gran importancia a largo plazo.

Territorio desconocido

Lita Proctor, que dirige el programa, dice que cada vez tienen más claro que nuestro microbioma se desarrolla en las primeras etapas de nuestra vida.

"El genoma humano es heredado pero el microbioma humano es adquirido y eso significa que tiene propiedades mutantes y cambiantes muy importantes".

"Eso nos da algo importante con lo que trabajar en la clínica. Si puedes manipular el microbioma, puedes mantenerlo sano o también sanar el que no lo está", dice.

¿Pero quién es propietario de los microbiomas que habitan nuestros cuerpos? y ¿qué supone esto para la regulación de los alimentos probióticos que pueden cambiarlos?

Son preguntas que formula la experta en ética Any McGuire, de la estadounidense Escuela de Medicina Baylor, y que, según ella, necesitarán ser limadas conforme avance nuestro conocimiento de este área.

Pero aún nos queda mucho por conocer sobre cómo se relaciona el microbioma con las células humanas, dice el profesor David Relman, de la Universidad de Stanford.

"Es todavía un territorio desconocido. Incluso aunque es nuestro terreno, aún estamos descubriendo nuevas formas de vidas en él", asegura.

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