Are only 10% of cells in a human actually human?

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Offline thedoc

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Are only 10% of cells in a human actually human?
« on: 19/07/2012 06:30:01 »
Stan asked the Naked Scientists:
Dear Sirs,

I am a long time listener to the naked scientist.

A statistic that is often quoted is that only 10% of the cells in our body are us.

This does seem counter intuitive. I wondered if you would look behind these numbers. I assume we are talking % of total cell numbers, not 90% of the mass of cells. Or could be take anti-biotics and lose 90% of our weight!?

I am aware that certain lab animals are born "sterile" delivered by caesarian section, again what is the comparable mass of a sterile animal/human?

I hope you will find some fascinating insight behind these numbers.

regards, Stan
What do you think?
« Last Edit: 19/07/2012 06:30:01 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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Re: Are only 10% of cells in a human actually human?
« Reply #1 on: 19/07/2012 07:29:00 »
I've seen the estimates. 
Does it count before, or after sitting on the can?

Keep in mind that most prokaryotes are much smaller than eukaryotes. 
Obviously there is a range in sizes, but I'm seeing notes of:

Bacteria are typically 0.2-2.0 μm in diameter
Eukaryote cells are typically 10-100 μm in diameter

So, if one dimension is 10 to 100 times as much, the cube of that gives a volume of the eukaryotes 1,000 to 1,000,000 that of the prokaryotes.  So, the actual weight attributable to the prokaryotes and other flora is actually quite small.