From: Alex Tolley
Location: Los Gatos, CA
This item is one of many that seem to indicate that our gut microflora have more of an impact on our physiology than previously believed. In this case, they shape how we get obese from our diets. Some of the implications have been covered in stories like your "Vitals", but I also think we are going to have to seriously consider the issue for space colonization. We may need to bring along considerable reserves of these bugs to ensure that our colonization efforts don't fail, not simply for the old ecological reasons, but because they may have very important contributions to our health. What happens if small genetic pools mutate? Can a newly colonized sterile world support the maintenance of these bugs, or will humans have to retreat periodically to earth-like habitats to re-stabilize them? Whilst we have had no end of stories about alien bugs, almost none have addressed issues concerning our home-world bugs and their relationship to us on new worlds.
BTW - Happy to see that Quantico is finally going to be released in the US. Looking forward to reading it.
From: Greg Bear
Thanks, Alex! There's also an excellent overview of gut microflora in the 25 Mar 2005 issue of SCIENCE--"Inner Tube of Life." The importance of commensal and symbiotic microorganisms to space health is already being recognized, and new research on the space travel implications could also jump-start medical research on Earth. Probiotic therapy is already on the supermarket shelves! But it's not very sophisticated, not yet.(And take a look at my older essay on this site, "Biospace 21," if you haven't already...)