Science 3 min read

Scientists Measure Human Exposome for the First Time

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Stanford researchers have successfully measured the human exposome for the first time. 

You might be thinking that taking long baths make you squeaky clean. Sorry to say this but you’re dead wrong. Apparently, there’s this invisible cloud of particles known as the human exposome that is hovering around you anywhere you go.

So, what is an exposome?

The human exposome is a collection of microbes, chemicals, and plant particles that follows every person anywhere they go. Meaning, regardless of where you are in the world, where you move, or how long you take a bath, a cloud of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and chemicals will constantly surround you.

In a recent study conducted by the researchers from Stanford University, they revealed just how much of these particles float around a person. Unfortunately, the invisible cloud of particulates is so vast that if it’s visible, it will make us look like Pig-Pen in the comic series Peanuts.

The study, which was published in the journal Cell, exposed the variety of bacteria, fungi, and other microscopic organisms that swirl in, on, and around our personal space.

“Human health is influenced by two things: your DNA and the environment. People have measured things like air pollution on a broad scale, but no one has really measured biological and chemical exposures at a personal level. No one really knows how vast the human exposome is or what kinds of things are in there,” Michael Snyder, a professor and the chair of genetics at Stanford University, said in a statement.

Snyder and his team enlisted 15 participants for their study. Each volunteer reportedly traveled in around 50 different locations within San Francisco and were given a small device equipped with a sub-micron filter to trap particulates that were worn in the arms. The device collects the human exposome of each person by ‘breathing’ small puffs of air.

The devices were taken to Snyder’s lab where the data they gathered was extracted for DNA and RNA sequencing as well as chemical profiling. The results of the study suggest that each person has a unique human exposome.

“It turns out, even at very close distances, we have very different exposure profiles or ‘signatures.’ The bottom line is that we all have our own microbiome cloud that we’re schlepping around and spewing out,” Snyder explained.

The scientists admit that further research has to be made before they can declare that the results are reliable. In the future, Snyder and his team want to measure more people in more diverse environments. They also want to simplify the technology so everyone can go out and measure their own exposure profile.

Based on your environment, can you guess what sort of microbes and particulates can be found in your human exposome?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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