WTF Fun Fact 13591 – The Grandmother Hypothesis

Have you heard of the grandmother hypothesis? Basically, it means grandma was right about washing behind your ears!

When it comes to maintaining skin health, certain regions, like behind the ears and between the toes, often get overlooked. Research by the George Washington University reveals why paying attention to these areas is essential. The skin microbiome, which refers to the collection of microbes residing on our skin, has shown variation in composition across different skin regions, be it dry, moist, or oily.

Exploring the Grandmother Hypothesis

The GW Computational Biology Institute set out to explore the widely accepted but scientifically unproven “Grandmother Hypothesis.” Keith Crandall, Director of the Computational Biology Institute, recalls the age-old advice from grandmothers: always scrub behind the ears, between the toes, and inside the belly button. But why? The belief is that these less frequently washed areas might house different bacterial compositions compared to more regularly scrubbed parts of the body.

To put this to the test, Marcos Pérez-Losada and Keith Crandall designed a unique genomics course, involving 129 graduate and undergraduate students. These students collected data by swabbing areas like behind their ears, between their toes, and their navels. For comparison, samples were also taken from drier regions such as calves and forearms.

Revealing Differences in Microbial Diversity

The results were enlightening. Forearms and calves, often cleaned more diligently during baths, displayed a broader and presumably healthier range of microbes. This is compared to hotspots like behind the ears and between the toes. A balanced skin microbiome is essential for skin health. A dominance of harmful microbes can disrupt this balance, potentially leading to skin conditions such as eczema or acne.

The study’s outcomes suggest that cleaning habits indeed impact the microbial population on the skin, further influencing its health. Thus, the age-old advice from our grandparents holds some truth after all!

Implications of the Grandmother Hypothesis

The research carried out by the GW Computational Biology Institute provides significant insights into the skin microbiome of healthy adults. It serves as a benchmark for future studies. There is still a long way to go in understanding the intricacies of how the microbial community on our skin impacts our overall health or disease state.

The study titled “Spatial diversity of the skin bacteriome” marked an essential milestone in the field. It sheds light on the diverse bacterial communities residing in different parts of our skin. Published in the renowned journal Frontiers in Microbiology on September 19, it is a stepping stone to further research in this rapidly evolving domain.

In conclusion, paying heed to the lesser-focused regions of our skin, as our ancestors advised, might be the key to ensuring a balanced and healthy skin microbiome. So next time you shower, remember to scrub those often-neglected areas!

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Source: “Skin behind the ears and between the toes can host a collection of unhealthy microbes” — ScienceDaily


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