Stick out your tongue
‘Stick Out Your Tongue’ (‘Saca la Lengua’) is a citizen’s science project that aims to study the mouth’s microbiome and its possible relationship with our environmental characteristics and lifestyle.
Recent scientific studies have highlighted the importance of the set of micro-organisms that live in our bodies, our “human microbiome”, in determining both health and illnesses. In reality, we have more bacteria cells in our bodies than human cells. It is logical that these microorganisms have an enormous influence on us, ranging from protecting us from certain illnesses, helping our digestion, causing diseases (either directly or indirectly), and determining our preferences, such as taste. Scientists are now beginning to look into this and in fact have already developed therapies involving transplanting a “healthy” faecal microbiome into patients to treat intestinal infections.
Citizen science projects are participatory project that allows scientists to work side-by-side with members of society. This project has involved the public at all three of its levels:
- During the first phase, we collected citizen ideas and variables through this website that were incorporated into the initial hypothesis for the scientific project.
- During the second phase, we collect samples and data from citizens. Researchers met citizens, making them aware of the world of research and that of microbiome research in particular.
- In the third phase, we analyze all data and share them with society.
Stick Out Your Tongue runned two different editions.
During the first running of Stick Out Your Tongue (2015-2016) we contacted 41 schools, familiarizing the educational community with the world of research and the microbiome. We traveled more than 7,000 km through different urban and rural areas and took over 1,500 samples from the mouths of 14-15 year-old students in good health. At the tird phase of the Project we organize with schools, universities and the general public a contest to analyse the data. We proposed different challenges at different levels, in statistics, data visualization and bioinformatics.
In the second running of Stick Out Your Tongue (2017-2019), we start with a clear picture of the oral microbiome’s diversity in healthy teens. Now the goal is to compare it with the microbiome of the same teens 2 years later, that of their family, other adults and vulnerable population groups such as individuals with Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, anorexia, and celiac disease.
Between 2018 and 2019, a card game has been developed, based on the results obtained in the research and with the aim of sharing some of the conclusions of the study.
The result is a cooperative, inclusive and educational game, for players over 10 years old, that can be played with family, friends or at school. The game is free and you can download the English version here:
Print the cards, buy some game dice and chips and play !
More details of the project (results included) in the spanish version.
The ‘Saca la Lengua’ project is an initiative of the Centre for Genomic Regulation and the “la Caixa” Foundation, with the participation of the Centre for Research into Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), the support of the ‘Centre d’Excel•lència Severo Ochoa 2013-2017′ programme (SEV-2012-02-08) of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, and contributions by the companies Illumina and Eppendorf.