Ever-more-powerful 'omics'-based technologies are allowing us to pry deeper and more clearly into the workings of the human gut microbiota. Culture of the component microbes has fallen somewhat behind these efforts for a number of reasons, not least of which being the perceived difficulty in growing microbial species that have previously eluded all efforts to tame them. However, recent advances in the field are beginning to bring success in this area, allowing holistic study of microbes and microbial communities in defined systems. Innovative approaches to the culture and study of the human microbiota will ultimately guide medical practice, as the importance of a robust gut microbial ecosystem in the maintenance of health is increasingly realized.
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