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.

During the first running of Stick Out Your Tongue, in 2015, over 1,500 samples taken from students ages 14-15 and 20 of their teachers were analysed. Over the course of the project, we met with some 3,000 students, familiarising them with the world of research in general, and that of the microbiome in particular. Click here to see all the places we visited around the country. To learn more about the experience of our researcher, on the road in a lab coat, read the interview by School Magazine.

The data make up a high-resolution description of the oral microbiome composition in a fundamentally healthy adolescent population in Spain.

In 2016, with support from la Caixa Foundation, we decided to carry out a second running of second Stick Out Your Tongue. This time, as we have a clear picture of a healthy microbiome’s diversity, the scientific goal is to make the most of the existing potential through the expansion of the sample to other population groups.

This is not only a scientific project, but a citizen science project that lets scientists work side-by-side with members of society. As in the first running, this second round will involve the public at different levels:

  1. During the first phase, we will use this website to collect citizen ideas and variables that will be incorporated into the initial hypothesis for the scientific project.
  2. In a second phase, we will expand the sample using the same methodology and analysis methods. The goal is to sequence 1,000 additional samples representing several specific scenarios chosen for their scientific interest and dissemination potential, including the comments received during the first phase. All donors will respond to the same questionnaire. Each of the cases analysed will make it possible to study their relationship with the microbiota composition through comparison with the control population obtained in the prior running of Stick Out Your Tongue.
  3. In the third phase, we will seek the help of schools, universities and the general public to analyse these data through different events, or a small on-line contest.
    To learn more about our project, check out our English-language videos on the right side of this page.

The ‘Stick Out Your Tongue’ project is an initiative of the Centre for Genomic Regulation and the “la Caixa” Foundation, with 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 from the Illumina and Eppendorf companies.