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Metagenomes in Nature

Nature had a nice feature on metagenomics last week and another on the Human microbiome metagenomics. You’ll need to have a subscription to access those :(, but the gist of the latter news feature is the possibilities of Human microbiome research, pros and cons and the projects out there. There are a lot. In order of amount of funding they are:

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Metagenomics making the big Times (as in NY)

Metagenomics, which is really a new area of study (barely this last decade) in comparison to most biological areas of research, is already making into the mainstream press. The New York Times has an article yesterday entitled “Bacteria thrive in the inner Elbow, No Harm Done” (you’ll need a free registration to read that). The article quotes from metagenomic studies that show that our inner elbows contain a unique microbiome of species even in comparison to our upper arm, though it goes a  more into metagenomic studies than just that. As the article states:

The research is part of the human microbiome project, microbiome meaning the entourage of all microbes that live in people.
The project is an ambitious government-financed endeavor to catalog the typical bacterial colonies that inhabit each niche in the human ecosystem.

That’d be this project. The article does a decent job of explaining why this project is helpful, but doesn’t really explain how this approach of metagenomics is different or how it’s done (in fact, it never says the word “metagenomics“). Oh well, can’t have everything.

For your edification: There is last year’s report “The New Science of Metagenomics” from the National Research Council (you can read free online, or purchase as a book. Also, of course there are at least two extensive databases of metagenomic data, IMG/M (free tutorial) and Camera.


Just a short post with some information:

Metagenomics is the new genomics :). NIH Roadmap has a new initiative, the Human Microbiome Project with a bit of funding :) . Meanwhile, other projects and databases are developing such as Integrated Microbial Genomes w/ Microbiome Samples (or IMG/M) and Camera. It’s an exciting and fascinating field (my former colleagues at the Bork lab just published interesting research in this field), though some scientists of course have their doubts.