Tuesday, September 30, 2008

To study bacteria without growing bacteria

It is a well known fact: Bacteria are very diverse and adapted to a very specific niche. If that niche disappears some bacteria will adapt and a new niche will be found and exploited. There are only so many bacteria that can be studied in the lab and often these studies can be flawed because one cannot replicate the conditions under which the bacteria normally strive....and then comes metagenomics.

Metagenomics is the study of gene expression and genome organization in a specific environmental condition. This is quite useful when studying microorganisms that live in extreme conditions impossible to fully replicate in a lab setting. I found this article at the Science Daily site. It is about an article published in Nature by Philip Hugenholtz and MIT researcher Gene Tyson.

“By employing the techniques of metagenomics we can go beyond the identification of specific players to creating an inventory of the genes in that environment.”

“We find that genes occurring more frequently in a particular community seem to confer attributes beneficial for maintenance of the function of that particular ecological niche.”
I really think bacteria hold the secret of our long term survival on this planet, studying these wonderful cells will allow us to identify specific solutions to very complex problems....if we can only survive long enough as a species.