Genetics

Ancient gut microbiomes may offer clues to modern diseases

Scientists are rapidly gathering evidence that variants of gut microbiomes, the collections of bacteria and other microbes in our digestive systems, may play harmful roles in diabetes and other diseases. Now Joslin Diabetes ...

Pediatrics

Piecing together the preterm infant microbiome

The human microbiome—the collection of microbes living in the gut—is now recognized as an important contributor to health and disease. The environment, the host, and microbe-microbe interactions are all likely to shape ...

Psychology & Psychiatry

How pregnancy turns the stress response on its head

The link between psychological stress and physical health problems generally relates to a stress-induced immune response gone wild, with inflammation then causing damage to other systems in the body. It's a predictable cascade—except ...

Gastroenterology

Predicting microbial interactions in the human gut

The human gut consists of a complex community of microbes that consume and secrete hundreds of small molecules—a phenomenon called cross-feeding. However, it is challenging to study these processes experimentally. A new ...

Neuroscience

Experts discuss the 'second brain': The gut microbiome

As researchers for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Food for Health Center, Andy Benson and Robert Hutkins are asking and answering questions about our second brain—the gut microbiome.

Psychology & Psychiatry

Gut microbes may antagonize or assist in anorexia

You are likely familiar with the serious consequences of anorexia for those who experience it, but you might not be aware that the disorder may not be purely psychological. A recent review from researchers at the University ...

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Microorganism

A microorganism (from the Greek: μικρός, mikrós, "small" and ὀργανισμός, organismós, "organism"; also spelled micro organism or micro-organism) or microbe is an organism that is microscopic (usually too small to be seen by the naked human eye). The study of microorganisms is called microbiology, a subject that began with Anton van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microorganisms in 1675, using a microscope of his own design.

Microorganisms are very diverse; they include bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protists; microscopic plants (called green algae); and animals such as plankton, the planarian and the amoeba. Some microbiologists also include viruses, but others consider these as non-living. Most microorganisms are unicellular (single-celled), but this is not universal, since some multicellular organisms are microscopic, while some unicellular protists and bacteria, like Thiomargarita namibiensis, are macroscopic and visible to the naked eye.

Microorganisms live in all parts of the biosphere where there is liquid water, including soil, hot springs, on the ocean floor, high in the atmosphere and deep inside rocks within the Earth's crust. Microorganisms are critical to nutrient recycling in ecosystems as they act as decomposers. As some microorganisms can fix nitrogen, they are a vital part of the nitrogen cycle, and recent studies indicate that airborne microbes may play a role in precipitation and weather.

Microbes are also exploited by people in biotechnology, both in traditional food and beverage preparation, and in modern technologies based on genetic engineering. However, pathogenic microbes are harmful, since they invade and grow within other organisms, causing diseases that kill millions of people, other animals, and plants.

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