How Human Are We?


In one of my favorite KISS songs, “Almost Human”, Gene Simmons sings “I’m almost human…..I’m almost a MAN”.

Gene Simmons has always been a bit of an oddity. Born Chaim Witz, he emigrated to the U.S. from Israel at age eight, learned to speak English and changed his name to Eugene Klein.  He later became a sixth grade teacher before winding up pounding the bass and wearing face paint as the Demon in KISS, a hard rock band . A master of marketing, Gene Simmons’ current net worth is 300 million dollars (according to

So it should come to no surprise to anyone, that after all these years, Gene Simmons was right about being almost human.

Yesterday I went to the Personalized Medicine 6.0 conference, and learned that we are only 10% human, at least in our cell to bacteria ratio.  Turns out we contain about 3 pounds of bacteria- cells are that are much smaller than our own. Bacteria cells outnumber ours 10 to 1. So we are 90% bacteria, 10% human.

But I also learned some useful information.  Cancer is now being looked at as a “chronic disease”, similar to HIV infection- something we will live with and manage medically.  Genomic Health’s Oncotype DX test has changed the way chemotherapy is prescribed, particularly in breast cancer, and soon for bone and prostate cancer. There is a combination drug cocktail coming out that targets Herceptin resistant cells…and allows women to keep their hair (Her3 target). Exciting times.

Personalized medicine is also being referred to as Precision Medicine (doctors take offense at Personalized Medicine as they feel they’ve been doing that for years).  It is likely that Precision Medicine will include our genome, a toxicity screen (which detects substances like DDT in the body) and metabolic assessment.  I believe this “Integrated Omics” approach will be the best way to treat multifactorial disorders like schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One scientist suggested that by the end of the decade, getting your complete genome sequenced will cost $33. I’d take odds on this price within the next five years.  I just wonder how Gene Simmons is going to cash in on this.

Are we not men? Link to NY times article about bacteria: