Get the dirt on drugs

Lionel Allorge via Wikimedia Commons

A US research team wants the dirt on you.

More accurately, it would like a sample of the dirt from your area, to check it for interesting new compounds to turn into potentially life-saving drugs.

“Soil is a diverse habitat,” according to the Drugs from Dirt website, “home to many microorganisms. DNA from the soil can tell us about the microorganisms from the soil.

We can profile soil metagenomes for the presence of genes of interest and use them to guide the discovery of new antibiotic compounds."

The research team, based at the Rockefeller University in New York, is currently working on obtaining soil samples from all fifty states in the US. After that, the team hopes to profile soils from a number of locations throughout the world. Once it has enough samples, it will chose “biodiverse regions” and sequence at depth.

At the moment, the team is still missing samples from the southwestern states like Texas, northeastern states like Maine, and the far northwest like Washington and Oregon.

To participate, you simply need to fill out a brief form on the website. Researchers will then contact you with instructions on how to harvest and ship a soil sample.

The team will be using next-generation sequencing to learn more about the microorganisms in the soil. You can learn more about that here.

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Chandra Clarke is a Webby Honoree-winning blogger, a successful entrepreneur, and an author. Her book Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science is available at Amazon. You can connect with her on Twitter @chandraclarke.