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NIH Seeks New Tools for Microbiome Sample Collection

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Human Genome Research Institute has set aside $2 million in 2010 to fund the development of new technologies for obtaining samples of microbes from the human microbiota that are suitable for complete genome sequence analysis.

NHGRI's aim is to improve tools for obtaining individual microbial strains or isolates and to expand the number of reference microbial genome sequences that can be used in human microbiome studies.

The institute has issued two requests for applications for the program: one will award between two and four R01 grants of up to three years, and the other will fund between two and six R21 grants over two years.

NHGRI said in its funding announcement that the RFAs are part of a series that seeks to "stimulate the application of the metagenomic approach to the analysis of the human microbiome and its role in both normal and pathological states."

So far, "only a small proportion" of the human microbiota have been isolated and sequenced, NHGRI noted, and new tools are needed to determine the complete, individual genome sequences of substantial numbers of microbes.

The studies funded under this program may vary widely, but could include: development and optimization of methods to isolate, amplify, or clone unamplified or amplified DNA of whole genomes from individual cells; development of new methods to isolate single microbial cells; new approaches to obtain pure cultures or simple mixed cultures of previously uncultivated species; new methods to "normalize" the methods to enrich the cells of a given species to essential purity; development of methods to enrich the cells of a given species to essential purity; and new methods that could be used to disaggregate cells from the complex mixtures of microbial, human, and extracellular cells.

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