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Human Microbiome

Author(s): Gregory Vogt, Ed.D, Barbara Tharp, M.S., Shannon McNulty, Ph.D.,and Nancy Moreno, Ph.D.
Human Microbiome
  • Grades:
  • 6-8 9-12

The collection of microbes on and in your body is your microbiome. In essence, it is your second genome. In fact, since many of the bacteria inside the body have not been cultured or studied, scientists only can identify them through their DNA.

The microbiome has a major influence our health. It is responsible for many relevant functions including breakdown of complex food molecules, prevention of disease-causing pathogens from entering the body, and the synthesis for essential nutrients and vitamins.

Not only are the gut microbes unique to each individual, the microbes living on the surfaces of the human body also are specific to each individual, just like fingerprints.

The Introduction to the Microbiome Guide for Teachers lets students explore the human microbiome through scientific articles, in-depth and hands-on activites, and by answering thought-provoking questions. The guide contains the following hands-on activities with investigative readings.

  1. Comparing Microbiomes — Does the composition of bacterial populations differ among locations on the human body and among individuals?

  2. How Many Cells Are in Your Body? — How many human and microbial cells make up your body?

  3. Bacterial Quorum Sensing— Do bacteria communicate? Does population density affect bacterial signaling or communication?

  4. Using Bacteria to Treat Disease — Can the microbiome be manipulated to treat disease?

  5. Feeding Your Microbiome — Can the balance of different microbes in the gut be altered?

  6. Got Fiber? — Why is fiber in food important to the health of the microbiome of the gut and to the general health of humans? Where can we find good sources of fiber?

Though originally created for middle school students, activites in this guide also may be used with high school students.

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Download: Introduction to the Microbiome Guide for Teachers

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Funded by the following grant(s)

Science Education Partnership Award, NIH

Gene U: Inquiry-based Genomics Learning Experiences for Teachers and Students
Grant Number: 5R25OD011134