Go ahead and call Rachel Dutton's research cheesy if you must. As far as she's concerned, it's anything but an insult.
A Bauer Fellow at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' Center for Systems Biology, Dutton and her lab study cheese or more precisely the bacteria and fungi that live on cheese, in an effort to better understand how microbial communities form.
After studying 137 varieties of cheese collected in 10 different countries, Dutton has been able to identify three general types of microbial communities that live on cheese, opening the door to using each as a "model" community for the study of whether and how various microbes and fungi compete or cooperate as they form communities, what molecules may be involved in the process and what mechanisms may be involved. The study is described in a July 17 paper in Cell.
"We often use model organisms like E. coli or C. elegans because they can give us an understanding of the basic mechanisms and principles of how biology works," Dutton said. "The goal of this work was to identify something like a model organism, but for microbial communities something we can bring into the lab and easily replicate and manipulate.
"The challenge in studying these communities is that many of the environments where they are found, such as the human body or the soil, are hard to replicate because they're so complicated," she continued. "Cheese seemed to offer a systemin which we knew exactly what these communities were growing on, so we thought we should be able to replicate that environment in the lab."
To understand what a model community might look like, Dutton and her lab first set out to identify dozens of naturally-occurring communities by collecting samples from the rinds of dozens of varieties of cheese around the world.
"We did some travelling in Europe and worked directly with a number of cheese-makers by having them send us samples or vising to collect samp
|Contact: Peter Reuell|