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#11: Know Thyself, Know Your Microbiome

Can bacteria influence whether you acquire modern diseases, like diabetes, cancer, irritable bowel disease or obesity? The answer may lay in your personal ecosystem. You comprise trillions of bacterial cells living within you and all over you, known as “microbiota”. There are more of them than there are of you. Most of them are quite helpful, if not essential, to life.

uBiome from uBiome on Vimeo.


Citizen science research is underway to help us identify complex interactions among microbiota and their impact on our health. Understanding our interactions with these bacteria can help us predict health patterns, such as whether we might be prone to cancer, diabetes, or obesity. Like the rainforest, the healthy human microbiome is a balanced ecosystem. Studies have linked microbiome imbalance to autism, depression, and anxiety, as well as many gut disorders, eczema, and chronic sinusitis. By using citizen science, we can gain quicker understanding bacteria and health patterns.

Have you ever wondered how you can measure your effort to change your diet or lifestyle? Is your paleo diet working? What happens if you stop eating gluten or dairy? And… are your microbes making you fat?

To bring this technology to the public, my co-founders and I started uBiome, the world’s first citizen science effort to map the human microbiome. From a small sample on a cotton swab, a uBiome test can help anyone learn more about their body, including:

So far, the project has garnered over $118,000 in crowdfunding from over 100 people, from all around the world, and been featured in Wired, Venture Beat, Scientific American, BoingBoing, Fox News, Los Angeles Times, MIT Technology Review and more.

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Post contributed by Jessica Richman & Edited by Frances Arnold

Jessica Richman started and sold her first company after high school. Returning to formal education, she attended Stanford University, where she earned degrees in Economics and Science, Technology & Society (emphasis in computer science). Along the way, she worked for Google, McKinsey, Lehman Brothers, the Grameen Bank, and top-tier Silicon Valley venture firms. Currently a doctoral student at Oxford University, her academic interests include social networks, innovation, collective intelligence, and entrepreneurship.

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  • Sue Mitchel-Runow

    So cool…I just saw this and thought you would like it also.
    What Lives in Your Gut& via @NatGeo.

  • Frances Arnold

    Hi Sue! Thanks for sharing! I wish I had seen this comment sooner. Your sharing is appreciated!

  • Zac

    Thanks so much for the awesome article! The link on this page is out of date – uBiome can now be found at – go there to see what we are up to these days! We’re still sequencing microbiomes!

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