The Science in Excrement

There are many different ways for scientists to conduct research from in vitro which is research conducted in a petri dish to in vivo which is research done using living animals. One type of research that constantly gets neglected is the one performed using excrement. Poop contains many pieces of valuable information not found anywhere else in our system. Scientists can even track microbes and enzyme activity in poop to monitor overall health.

For this exact reason, a team of researchers helmed by Aadra Bhatt from the University of North Carolina decided that this kind of research merits a name of its own. Choosing the correct name was not easy, but eventually, they settled on “in fimo“. The term is derived from the Latin word fimus which means excrement. It was more appropriate than the obvious choice of “in feces.”

Studies about human waste are currently at the forefront of biomedical research. Human excrement contains microbiota – this is the term used for the various bacterium located in our gut – and it can tell us if anything within our system is out of balance. Recent studies also revealed that the bacterium from our stomach have significant roles when it comes to weight gain, various eating disorders, cancers, and diseases. There are even talks about the gut bacterium having an effect on autism.

The term “in fimo” has already been used by professor Bhatt and her colleagues for a while now.  Even though the work they do seems whimsical and silly from the outside the research is important enough to have its own name.

And this is not the first-time scientists have given a funny name to one of their discoveries. A mutant model of the C. elegans worm has been named “dumpy” for example.

Bhatt and her team are hoping the word takes its place in the scientific community and finds its way into the scientific lexicon.


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