This image shows that your tongue is a true "party" of bacteria
There are many more bacteria in our lives than we can imagine. Even in parts as intimate as the tongue. It is normal to expect that one of the most delicate parts is free of microbes, but nothing is further from reality.
If not, you just have to look at this incredible image obtained by researchers from the Forsyth Institute and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Thanks to a relatively new technique, they have obtained this bacterial map of the tongue. The most curious thing, possibly, is the fact that they form authentic "neighborhoods" according to the area of the language they prefer.
A mouth full of microbes
Warning for apprehensive, you better get used to the idea: the human body is covered, almost completely, with bacteria. It is what is known as a microbiota. The skin, the genitals, the intestinal tract and, yes, of course, the mouth, contain true bacterial biomes. These help us in many ways, by the way.
The tongue is no exception: it is a muscle full of nooks and crannies, moist, and in constant contact with food and external bacteria. In other words, it is an especially attractive site for bacteria. Neither tooth washing nor the slight antiseptic action of saliva can eliminate them. And to show a button: the image obtained by Gary Borisy, main author of the study, published in Cell marks the existence of various types of bacteria with a fairly defined structure.
According to the researcher, this suggests that the bacteria would act more as a "more organ" and not as simple random hosts that live in our language. Although it is only a comment from the author, the truth is that every day we know more about the role of bacteria in our bodies. To this day, we are clear that the microbiome of the intestine, or our skin, is intimately linked to our health. Why not the language?
This is how bacteria "spread" your tongue
As we can see in the image, bacteria are located more or less specifically in our language. Thus, on the sides of the central muscle and the epithelial tissue (in gray) we can see some red peaks that go outwards. This is Actinomyces sp.Normally harmless bacteria that we also find in our throat, digestive and urinary tracts. In magenta pink we see colonies of Veillonella dispara, which is normally found in the human mouth, respiratory and digestive tracts.
So much Actinomyces sp. how Veillonella dispara They can convert nitrate, found in foods like spinach and other green leafy vegetables, to nitrite, allowing our cells to produce nitric oxide that helps control blood pressure, for example, the researcher noted in his study. .
Streptococcus mutans It is one of the best known bacteria in our misnamed oral "flora" as it is the main cause of caries, and it is highlighted in green on the outer edges of the tongue. The most abundant in the photo is Rothia sp., in cyan blue, an actinobacterium that is part of the normal microbiota of the mouth. Neisseria flava in yellow, it is also involved in the appearance of caries. These last two rest in groups and stripes associated with the central core of the tongue tissue, which suggests that this is a fundamental component for its growth.
This well-defined structure suggests to researchers an interrelated community. Now, the authors want to better understand why these divisions form and how they affect our health. This study will also serve to lay the foundations for how the anatomical components of our language serve to create adequate spaces for bacteria to colonize.
Photographing the microbiome
To obtain this photo, which shows where microbes live and interact on the tongue, the researchers have used a relatively new technique, developed in Borisy's laboratory, called Combinatorial Labeling linked to Spectral Image by fluorescence in situ hybridization (CLASI-FISH) .
This consists of labeling various microorganisms (previously identified to live in human languages) with multiple fluorophores, molecules designed to "shine" under certain specific circumstances. Fluorophores are fluorescent chemical compounds that absorb and re-emit light at various wavelengths, making each glow a different color.
This technique allows many different species of bacteria and other microbes on the tongue to light up immediately when photographed with the proper technique. In doing so, the result is this impressive image of the tongue, glowing in colors according to the bacteria that have been labeled by the corresponding fluorophore.
Image | Forsyth Institute / Harvard School of Dental Medicine