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Do It on Purpose?

Before humans are sent to colonize Mars, a group of researchers says Earth microbes should be sent there first, Business Insider reports.

This, Business Insider notes, flies in the face of current NASA guidelines, which call for the protection of other planets against Earth-based microbial and other invaders. But in an opinion article in FEMS Microbial Ecology, researchers led by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro's Alexandre Rosado argue that rather than waiting for accidental contamination, such introductions should be done on purpose and with care.

They call for the development of a "Proactive Inoculation Plan" part of which is to identify beneficial microbes that would help the development of life at new sites.

"Life as we know it cannot exist without beneficial microorganisms," co-author Jose Lopez, from Nova Southeastern University says in a statement. "They are here on our planet and help define symbiotic associations — the living together of multiple organisms to create a greater whole. To survive on a barren (and as far as all voyages to date tell us) sterile planets, we will have to take beneficial microbes with us. This will take time to prepare, discern, and we are not advocating a rush to inoculate, but only after rigorous, systematic research on Earth."

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.