News Headlines Article

Proposal: Let’s Create A Frozen Noah’s Ark For Helpful Germs
National Public Radio

Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello had just moved to New York when Hurricane Sandy blew in from the Atlantic and buffeted the East Coast.

She heard that the labs at New York University, where she was working — and its freezer — were losing power. So she ran to the failing freezer, took the microbiota samples she’d gathered as a researcher in Puerto Rico over the past 14 years and stored them elsewhere.

Microbiota are the bacteria colonizing the human body — the gut, skin, mouth, and so on — that often help regulate your health. Researchers call them “beneficial germs.”

Dominguez-Bello’s colleagues weren’t so lucky — many researchers lost samples that took years to gather.

Now she has an idea for how to protect those samples from disasters. She is part of a team that wants to build a freezer vault in the safest place possible and stock it with microbiota collected by scientists around the world — a kind of Noah’s Ark for helpful bacteria.