The Angry UFOlogist


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For every cell in your body, there’s another tiny single-celled creature that also calls your body home. Far from being germs we should eradicate, these ancient friends allow us to digest food, breathe air, and fight off disease. They were here long before us and will undoubtedly remain long after we’re gone. They are our microbiome, and after eons of cohabitation, we are finally getting to know one another better. Of course, we aren’t always the best of neighbors. Autoimmune diseases, allergies, depression, and Alzheimer’s may be diseases of an unhappy microbiome.

PARTICIPANTS: Martin Blaser, Jo Handelsman, Rob Knight, and David Relman

MODERATOR: Dr. Emily Senay


This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

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- Program introduction 03:12
- Participant introductions 03:40
- When do we acquire our microbiome? 04:50
- Connection between the microbiome and our immune system 07:00
- Using mice to study the microbiome 07:45
- When does your microbiome stabilize? 08:55
- What is the Human Microbiome Project? 11:20
- How unique is each person's microbiome? 14:02
- Mapping the microbiome on different areas of the body 14:54
- The effects of extensive antibiotic use on the microbiome and cause of modern diseases 15:19
- Are the microbes in dirt good for us? 18:01
- Rates of asthma in the Amish and Hutterites 19:50
- Hygiene hypothesis 21:20
- Antibiotic use and the rise of obesity in the US 23:25
- Obesity and the microbiome 25:05
- How do changes in the microbiome get passed from generation to generation? 29:30
- C. difficile and fecal transplants 33:20
- Can fecal transplants be used to treat other diseases? 37:57
- Connection between the gut and the brain 42:00
- Can the microbiome cause depression? 43:20
- How do you study depression in mice? 46:25
- Is there a strong association between what is happening in the gut and behavior? 49:35
- Is the microbiome connected to autism? 50:51
- How do the microbiomes of hunter-gatherers living in primitive conditions compared to people with high exposure to antibiotics? 52:45
- Is it possible that we'll never recapture our full ancestral microbiota diversity? 54:15
- How can we keep our microbiome happy and healthy? 56:51
- The role of the microbiome in precision medicine and drug efficacy 59:15
- Do probiotics really work? 1:03:04


- Produced by Nils Kongshaug
- Associate Produced by Laura Dattaro
- Opening film produced / directed by Vin Liota
- Music provided by APM
- Additional images and footage provided by: Getty Images, Shutterstock, Videoblocks, Kishony Lab at Harvard Medical School and Technion--Israel Institute of Technology, Mazmanian Lab at California Institute of Technology, CDC

This program was recorded live at the 2018 World Science Festival and has been edited and condensed for YouTube.

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