Sign In

Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Metagenomics and the Computing Challenges of Microbial Communities

View as: Print Mobile App Share:

Metagenomics aims to study organisms like microbes in their natural environment.

Credit: University of Oregon

New technologies are enabling researchers to sequence samples of microorganisms taken from their environment, but the relatively new field of metagenomics still has to deal with considerable science and computing challenges.

Understanding large microbial communities is likely to improve human health, and researchers now have complete DNA sequences of thousands of organisms in databases. However, a single gram of soil can have about 1 trillion base pairs of DNA, which makes analyzing the gene sequencing data a challenge. Metagenomics researchers will need programs that are capable of asking the right biological questions, and current high-performance computers still cannot handle the enormous amount of data. The design of new algorithms and cloud-computing technologies are needed.

According to the National Academies of Science publication "The New Science of Metagenomics: Revealing the Secrets of Our Microbial Planet," there should be significant technical, computational, and biological development, as well as specific applications, during the next 20 years.

From Computing Community Consortium
View Full Article


Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


No entries found