Researchers use a New Method to Explore Microbial Dark Matter

A team of researchers has created a new method that grants the ability to select and cultivate specific bacteria with the help of genomic data, a discovery that should play a role in the effort to solve the challenges offered by a vast majority of dark matter microorganisms which have remained unstudied.

Microorganisms play an important role in humans and the environment, but only half of the microbes which can be found in the human body have been cultivated in laboratories for studies, and the ratio is considerably lower in the case of microbes recovered from open environments.

In recent decades researchers have learned more about microbial life by using genome sequencing in the case of microbes recovered from the environment. A major downside of this procedure comes from the fact that it will kill the organism. Besides observing the features sported by microbes, many researchers wish to study live organisms and learn more about their specific traits.

Some may think that scientists should be able to acquire all the relevant information from the sequence data. While this should be possible, a large amount of the information collected during the procedure cannot, at this point, and it is similar to a complicated puzzle. Hypotheses and theories can surface but without data collected from a live version of the organisms, only speculations can be made.

The team of researchers implemented a new method, harnesses the power of antibody engineering to track down and isolate specific microbes which can be found in samples of the human oral microbiome.

By combining existent knowledge about the position of proteins in a target microbe and computational structure modeling the researchers gained the ability to anticipate the regions of the proteins which can be used as antigens. A fluorescent tag was used to highlight the desired cells which were isolated without problems.

More information can, in a paper,  in a scientific journal.

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