Science News: Quantifying the Worth of the Human Body

– K.J., Editor

Cells are the basic unit of life. Our bodies consist of trillions of cells continuously in processes of replication and division like mitosis and meiosis. Some cells are built to last our entire lifetime like dendritic cells, while some, like certain types of white blood cells, won’t live longer than a week.

Now let’s go even smaller to what cells are made of, past the organelles and DNA right down to the atoms. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and many trace elements are essential for our existence. Is it possible to quantify the commercial value of these elements, and if so, how much are our elements, and therefore our bodies, worth?.

BBC Earth’s “How much of your body is actually you?” takes your basic characteristics like date of birth, sex, weight, and height and generates approximate data such as your elemental makeup, microbe count, and organ weight. For instance, this writer has enough sodium in her body to make 29 teaspoons of salt and 800 MB of data compared to 675 MB for a cat. While this was surprising, what was not surprising was the disclaimer explaining that the results do not take genetic information, the environment, or lifestyle into account.

But what if they did? While reading my results, the thought crossed my mind more than once. Although it is possible to quantify and assign a commercial value to our genes, cells, and even elements, what we can and can’t do with that information remains to be seen.

Click here for the Japanese version.