As science becomes more sophisticated, we learn that some things we thought were inconsequential are actually quite important. “Junk” DNA is a perfect example. It’s doing a lot more than we previously suspected.
The same is true of the microbiome. Over the years, our understanding has evolved from not being particularly concerned either way, to feeling some mild interest, to “oh wow, these microbes have a crucial impact on our health and wellbeing.” It’s not so much that we share the Earth with microbes – they’re sharing it with us.
Research over the last decade has shown that our resident bacteria contribute to gut, immune and even mental health. There’s a balance of power in and on our bodies – the key word being balance.
This goes way beyond human health. Microbes play a major role in plant growth, impacting food production, animal husbandry and are an emergent force in energy production and other industries.
Microbes produce unique enzymes and metabolites that could find their way into multiple applications – but to enable this, we need to meet them where they live, understand their lifecycle and learn about their function. Quite literally, we have to be able to watch them grow, and be able to do this in a highly parallel manner.
And that’s the complication. Bacteria and other microbes can be difficult to isolate and culture. It might take months, or even years to successfully grow a bacterium of interest. What we need now is a better way to isolate and grow them to gain all-important functional information.
Spoiler alert: That’s what GALT is working on. We believe microbiologists need new high throughput microbiome research tools to rapidly isolate and study microbes so we can learn about their enzymes, metabolites and other interesting molecules. What do they do and how do they do it? How do they live?
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