Friday, December 3, 2010

From Acid Mines To The Human Microbiome

Nature News has a fascinating article by Lizzie Buchen on human ecology... not the ecology outside and around us - but the ecology within - on which a variety of microbiota flourish.

That variety is now under scientists try to understand the linkages between the types of microbiota living inside us and our health. Establishing those linkages to the point where they could be of clinical value is a long way off but the efforts are bringing together unusual collaborations like the one where Jillian Banfield an expert on the microbiota of acid mines..the so called extremophiles.. is teaming up with Michael Morowitz and David Relman who are working on the microbiota in the intestines of premature infants.

...the connection...?

"The scientific questions are really cross-cutting," says Banfield. One example, she says, is colonization — which organisms arrive first and how the community evolves (see 'Baby's first bacteria'). "It's ecological succession," Banfield says. "If you look at the surface of a pool of acid mine drainage and imagine the first organisms to arrive, it's the same as imagining a newborn baby with a sterile GI tract, and the first organisms there." 

Plus, Dr. Banfield has experience sequencing and analyzing DNA from the microbes of acid mines where there are only a limited number of microorganisms. The infants intestine is similarly an ecosystem which has been recently colonized by only a few microbes, which makes it that much easier to categorize them using Dr. Banfield's techniques.

The article has a lot more on the emerging field of the human was an eye opener for me... in sheer number of cells we are 99% microbial...

how's that for a weekend thought..!

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