Guest post: The things you can learn from sequencing: Microbes, Primates, and Climate Change

March 6, 2012 | Posted by Guest in Innovation Highlight |

This is a guest post by Carl Yeoman, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who will start as Assistant Professor in the Animal and Range Sciences Dept. at Montana State University in August (full bio below). 

At this year’s Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF) 2012 conference, I will present the work that my colleagues and I have been doing at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign using both 454 Life Sciences pyrosequencing and Illumina technologies to study the gastrointestinal and vaginal microbial ecosystems of humans and non-human wild primates.

Historically, microbiologists would interrogate these microbial ecosystems under a microscope or by trying to culture them in agar or broth containing nutrients. Microbes, however are extremely heterogeneous in their requirements for optimal growth. In fact, only ~1% of all microbes have been successfully grown in culture. Microbes grow at different rates (slower growing microbes will be outcompeted in non-replenishing culture), have different nutritional requirements and are often dependent upon other co-resident microbes for growth. These factors mean that culture-based analyses are inadequate for surveying microbial ecosystems, while the diversity of microbes in most ecosystems makes microscope-based analyses impossible.

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