A New MIT-Led Simons Foundation Collaboration Aims to Understand Basic Principles and Laws of Microbial Ecosystems
Model microorganisms grown in pure cultures have been the basis of biological research for many decades — open a cell biology textbook and almost everything you will find has been discovered in yeast or E. coli lab cultures. While this speaks to the power of research on individual species, ecologists would be quick to remind us that pure cultures rarely exist in nature. Organisms live in an ecological context, and are often cogs in a well-oiled ecological machine with multiple species.
Microbial communities are one prime example of ecological systems that are far from being pure cultures, and these communities play fundamental roles in earth’s ecosystems. Despite their critical contributions to our world, our understanding of these collective systems lags decades behind our knowledge of pure cultures. The rules that govern their dynamics and function also remain largely unknown.
Now, a new Simons Foundation collaboration called Theory of Microbial Ecosystems (THE-ME, pronounced "theme") is attempting to fill this gap by discovering the principles of how microbial communities form and function. . ,