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Home » What I’ve Learned From My 3 Trillion Closest Friends: Robin Shields-Cutler (Transcript)

What I’ve Learned From My 3 Trillion Closest Friends: Robin Shields-Cutler (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript and summary of Robin Shields-Cutler’s talk titled “What I’ve Learned From My 3 Trillion Closest Friends” at TEDxGrinnellCollege conference.

In this TEDx talk, microbiologist Robin Shields-Cutler discusses the microbiome, an ecosystem made up of hundreds or thousands of different species of microbial organisms that exists in each and every one of our guts. He emphasizes that scientists were able to study the microbiome using advances in microscopy and DNA sequencing technology and explains its importance in shaping our physiology, training our immune system, communicating with our brains, and helping us digest food. 

Listen to the audio version here:

TRANSCRIPT:

I’d like you to think about your friends. What do your friends do that supports you? How do your friends affect the way that you feel and think? If you feed your friends, do they feed you?

How many of these close friends do you have? Now, I don’t mean to brag, but I have about three trillion, give or take 10 or 20. But by the end of this talk, I hopefully will convince you that you do, too. A little bit of a warning, though.

Every time you, or sometimes when you go to the bathroom, you might lose a couple hundred billion of these friends. I’m not talking about people, as you probably figured out. That’d be weird. I’m talking about one of the most complex ecosystems on our planet.

And it exists in each and every one of our guts. This is an ecosystem made up of hundreds or thousands of different species of microbial organisms we call the microbiome. And if you were to count all these cells, it would equal or exceed the number of human cells in your body. You could pull this mass of writhing, squishy cells out, could weigh as much as a pound.

So that’s kind of a lot. But a trillion is a hard number to really figure out. I bet a lot of you can’t really conceptualize what a trillion means. It’s on the order of the US national debt, but I’m going to guess that’s not really helpful either.

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