Better Biofuels Through Termite Microbe Genetics?

Sequencing the genomes of microbial ecosystems could lead to better biological machines.

Published: 17-Jan-2007

Scientists are sequencing the genomes of entire microbial communities in the hope of uncovering new genes and organisms that can create fuel, mine metals, or clean up superfund sites. Known as metagenomics, the field relies on studying bits of DNA from a variety of organisms that live in the same place. Thanks to ever-improving sequencing methods, the number of metagenome projects is growing, giving scientists myriad new genes to explore.

"This opens up a new way of looking at these organisms," says Jim Bristow, director of the community sequencing program at the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute, in Walnut Creek, CA. "We'll probably discover lots of fundamental processes that we previously knew nothing about."

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