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An important aspect of our work with host-associated microbiomes involves investigating members of these communities that have yet to be cultured within the laboratory. Lack of cultured representatives makes it difficult to determine the contribution of such species to human health and well-being.
To address this issue we are using metagenomic sequencing, which sequences all of the genes in all of the organisms present in a sample, of human microbiome samples such as faecal material. Metagenomics involves the direct extraction and sequencing of bulk DNA from a given sample, and therefore does not rely on our ability to culture any members of the community.
Using this type of sequencing we are able to piece together the genomes of uncultured bacterial species. We then compare these new genomes with those of known bacterial species with known functions. From this, we can infer the role of uncultured species within their native environment.
This work complements the Tree of Life projects also undertaken at ACE.