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Thinking Big About Something Small

Microbiologists like to say that 99 percent of bacteria can't be cultured in a lab, and the saying drives Mike the Mad Biologist "up a wall." The problem, Mike says, is that microbiologists aren't being creative enough when it comes to finding way to grow bacteria. When he was a postdoc, Mike did a simple comparison using standard rich lab medium and a home-brew low nutrient agar to grow some microbes, and found that his special plates had 20 to 40 times as many bugs as the standard plates. These days, one of the side benefits of the Human Microbiome Project is that researchers are getting very creative in their methods to grow human bacteria, as well as waiting longer than would be usual for normal cultures. "These are very cool results, and I hope they put the 99 percent of bacteria are unculturable myth to rest," Mike says. "Seriously, have some pride, fellow microbiologists, and be clever when you isolate."

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.