News FocusHuman Genome 10th Anniversary

Digging Deep Into the Microbiome

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Science  25 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6020, pp. 1008-1009
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6020.1008

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In the past decade, scientists have come to realize that animal intestines naturally harbor diverse microbial communities that help provide nutrients and sustain good health. A landmark 2005 study concluded that the bacterial communities in the human gut vary tremendously from one individual to the next. But that work looked at the guts of just three people, using traditional sequencing technology to probe for different variants of ribosomal RNA genes, each of which represented a different microbe. A new analysis of 146 people, made possible by the lower cost and higher efficiency of DNA sequencing, is now telling a much more detailed story, as well as providing researchers a new way to evaluate which genes are "must-haves" for the microbes. This story and the ones accompanying it are part of a collection this month reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the publication of the human genome, which is gathered here.