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Video: The Ancient Human Microbiome

Finding ‘diseases of civilization’

The Ancient Human Microbiome

There is an epidemic of obesity and chronic inflammatory disorders in urban, western societies. Modern lifestyles are very different from those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors whose microbiomes (sum total of microorganisms that live in and on the human body) had millions of years to adapt to their diet and environment. If scientists can unravel the secrets of these microbiomes, it could revolutionize how we treat diseases of modern life like obesity and inflammatory disorders.

A new “Adventures in Genomics” video examines the ancient human microbiome through the eyes of Cecil Lewis, Ph.D. and Christina Warinner, Ph.D., co-directors of the Laboratories of Molecular Anthropology and Microbiome Research at the University of Oklahoma. In their “Human Biodiversity Project,” Dr. Lewis and Dr. Warinner studied two Peruvian populations. One was in the Amazon jungle called the Matses population. Another one was the Tunapuco, who are in the highlands.

As Dr. Warinner states, “Our goal is not to take us back into some sort of golden paleolithic past. Our goal is instead to use this information to look towards the future. We now have more than seven billion people on this planet. We are facing a very complex and a future full of challenges. We want to use this information to improve human health.” 

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