Taking a breath!!!
This year has been one of the changes for everyone, that is why I took a break from the laboratory and came to Laguna de Tota, the second largest lagoon in Latin America and a beautiful place.
And just like other big lagoons and uninhabited places, the legends of cryptid beings that inhabit these places abound, and the analogy with science is always inevitable! So I want to talk a little about metagenomics, the technique with which we microbe hunters look for microorganisms with extraordinary qualities, BigFoots bacteria, Nessies yeast, and microscopic marine snakes.
Before metagenomics studies and the discovery of wonderful creatures and where they live, researchers had to cultivate microorganisms, which grew in a laboratory environment, and once there they were studied. However, this assumed that we could cultivate all microorganisms and it is estimated that only 1% is cultivable because we do not know their nutritional needs, live in symbiosis with other living beings, or are simply very labile for an environment such as the laboratory.
Thus, after the sequencing of the human genome, interest in microorganisms and the area that we call metagenomics was developed, this area basically studies all the genetic material obtained from environmental samples and from there, identifies all the genomes (living organisms) that are found there and classify them. This involved the discovery of microbial communities with various emergent properties that could be exploited for different applications.
Among them, metagenomics researchers discovered that we were missing out on dragon microorganisms (which could withstand temperatures up to 340 C), Yetis bacteria (which develop mechanisms to protect themselves at temperatures down to -12 C without freezing), Microscopic Marine Snakes (capable of growing at very acidic pHs in lakes inhabited by other living beings) among other cryptid microorganisms that have been exploited for applications in medicine, biotechnology and especially bioremediation. These cryptid microorganisms eluded us for a while. But thanks to new technologies these are being unveiled and used for our benefit!!