Dirt Cheap

How's this for a drug discovery strategy: go out and grap a cup of dirt. Sounds a little far fetched, doesn't it?

Well, that's exactly what two researchers from Rockefeller University did--and they published their results in the November 11 issue of PNAS. That's the start of the article over there on the left.

Typically a teaspoon of dirt contains an estimated 10,000 species of bacteria but most of those can't be grown in a lab thus they've never been used for pharmacological research. This method allows research folk to take the dirt and extract bacterial DNA from it and then search for known DNA sequences common to anti-bacterial drugs, particularly the gene sequence called OxyC.

Since nothing is more interested in fighting bacteria more than other bacteria, getting possible drugs from bacteria makes sense. Evolutionarily they've been working on this problem for nearly 4 billion years.

The researchers collected soil samples from a number of different places, including one sample from here in North Carolina. Focusing on the sample obtained from Utah, they organized all of the genetic material into a 10 million member megalibrary, far larger than any other DNA library of its kind. It contained the rough equivalent of 100,000 bacterial genomes.

According to Sean F. Brady, one of the authors as well as the head of the Laboratory of Genetically Encoded Small Molecules at Rockefeller University, "This proves that you can recover large gene clusters from very complex soil samples." Neat.


kenju said…
Sorry; it's all Greek to me.

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