We need to understand how diverse communities of microbes interact, but doing so in the gut is hard. Why not turn to a model system, where diverse microbial communities interact, but in an environment that’s easier to study? We have a long history of using model systems in biology – the mice I mentioned up above are models. Cheese rinds contain diverse communities of microbes, but they are not quite as complex as those in the gut, and every single microbe can be grown in the air, at room temperature, on a simple substrate.
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