Citizen Science: Mind-Mapping the Midterm Topic


In class last week, we mind-mapped our topics, created links between them, and then exchanged our maps with a classmate. I was paired with Bomani, and together we explored the most interesting paths: the role of fermentation in the formation of a vigorous and healthy microbiome, and the subsequent manipulation the human microbiome to ameliorate human suffering, both physical and mental.


The ideas I was most interested in were DIY anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds and a Build-Your-Own Microbiome kit.

These ideas were partially inspired by the Verge’s story on Josiah Zayner, who self-treated his IBS with an extreme biohacking experiment, where he attempted to kill all of his own microbiota and replace them with those of a healthy friend. While this is an extreme example, the principle behind it is medically respected. Fecal transplants are an accepted treatment for Clostridium difficile infections, and in the past few years there has been a rise in at-home fecal transplants for stomach pain, IBS, ulcerative colitis, and other conditions that are not FDA approved for fecal transplants.

Some doctors, convinced that our immature and undertrained immune systems are causing extreme inflammatory responses, are researching a vaccine to that would introduce a soil bacteria known to reduce inflammation into our microbiome, with the hope that it will treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues linked to inflammation.

So moving forward, I want to focus on the manipulation of the microbiome, potentially through a diet rich in fermented foods, and how that might begin to address medical problems that cannot be successfully treated right now.

Caroline NeelComment