WTF Fun Fact 13442 – We Have More Bacterial Cells Than Human

The human body contains more bacterial cells than human cells. Weird, right?

The majority of the cells that constitute “you” are, in fact, not human. They are microscopic organisms that are hitching a ride, making a living off your body. It might sound like science fiction, but this is a confirmed scientific fact. The human body contains ten times more bacterial cells than human cells.

How can we contain more bacterial cells than human cells?

Now, before we allow our imagination to scare us into a frenzy, let’s unpack this a bit.

These bacterial cells, collectively known as the human microbiota, live mostly in harmony with our bodies. We provide them with a suitable habitat, and they return the favor by aiding in bodily functions like digestion and immune response. Our gut houses the vast majority of these organisms.

This raises some provocative questions: With our bodies being made up predominantly of non-human cells, what does that imply about our identity? What actually makes us human?

How are we fully human if we contain so many non-human cells?

Biologically speaking, being human is about more than just the number of cells. Human cells, while fewer in number, are much larger and more complex than bacterial cells. So, in terms of volume and genetic material, we are predominantly human.

But the philosophical implications are still fascinating to consider. We ten to link our human identity to our biological makeup. But the massive presence of non-human cells introduces an intriguing paradox.

Science has often categorized organisms based on their cellular composition. However, this fact might prompt us to reconsider such traditional boundaries. We need to acknowledge the complex symbiosis that constitutes our “self.” We are, in essence, a walking, talking microbiome.

Teamwork makes the dream work

These non-human inhabitants of our body have a far-reaching impact on our health and well-being. There’s a dynamic relationship between our human cells and these bacterial cells. When this relationship is in balance, we thrive. But when it’s out of whack, we may face health issues. This fact has driven researchers to explore the potential of microbiota in shaping future treatments for various diseases.

Yet, as we learn more about our microbial inhabitants, we also uncover deeper layers of what it means to be human. Are we individual entities, or are we, as some philosophers might argue, a “superorganism” made up of numerous symbiotic relationships?

Indeed, we might be more ‘alien’ than we ever imagined, yet this very fact underscores our extraordinary complexity as living beings.

So next time you glance at your reflection, remember: You’re not just looking at ‘you.’ You’re seeing an intricate ecosystem.

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Source: “NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body” — National Institutes of Health

WTF Fun Fact 13311 – Lungs As Big As Tennis Court

It sounds pretty impressive to have lungs as big as a tennis court. But it’s true for all of us.

How are lungs as big as a tennis court?

The surface area of the lungs is about 70 to 100 square meters. That’s roughly the size of a tennis court. This is due to the intricate network of tiny air sacs called alveoli found within the lungs. The average adult has a total lung capacity of around 4-6 liters.

The alveoli are incredibly small. In fact, each one measures only about 0.3 millimeters in diameter. However, they are numerous. An estimated 480 million alveoli exist in the lungs of an average adult. These tiny air sacs are the places where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. This is what allows us to breathe and provides our bodies with the oxygen needed to function.

Our amazing lungs

To help with the process of breathing, the lungs are surrounded by a thin layer of muscle called the diaphragm. When the diaphragm contracts, it pulls downward and creates a vacuum that allows air to flow into the lungs. When the diaphragm relaxes, it pushes upward and forces air out of the lungs.

Did you know that lungs are not identical in size or shape? The right lung is larger. It has three lobes, while the left lung is smaller and has only two lobes. This asymmetry allows for space to be made for the heart, which is located on the left side of the body.

The lungs are also the only organ that can float on water. That’s because they’re composed mostly of air, which is less dense.

Lungs even have the ability to regenerate and repair themselves. That’s due to the stem cells in the respiratory system. This regenerative capacity is especially important in combating respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

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Source: “How Your Lungs Get the Job Done” — American Lung Association