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Microbiome explorations stoke researcher’s passion

Start talking with physician-scientist Ami Bhatt, MD, PhD, about the microbiome -- the vast community of bacteria, fungi, and life that live on the body -- and she'll discuss the potential of these dynamic microscopic ecosystems with such contagious enthusiasm and clarity that you'll find yourself nodding alongside her, agreeing with her every point.

Bhatt is intensely curious, a trait she's had since childhood, and deeply committed to the idea of using science to help others. These dual instincts initially led her to medicine, where she found her calling as a physician-scientist.

I feel like I am one of those lucky few who get to do exactly what they want to do.

Today Bhatt runs her own laboratory at Stanford, where she studies how shifts in the microbiome affect human disease and patient outcomes.

"The fundamental thesis that drives our research," Bhatt explained in a recently published piece on the Department of Medicine website, "is that patient outcomes are manipulated or modified by the alterations in their microbiota, and that we can discover these microbes using sequence-based technologies."

Another of Bhatt's initiatives aims to unravel a particularly interesting--and timely--question: What molecular changes occur during a fecal microbiota transfer? To answer this, Bhatt and her colleagues have developed a computational pipeline that will provide a time-based characterization of what actually happens during a transfer.

While her research goals are ambitious and varied, the source of Bhatt's passion remains the same. "I'm still committed to the idea of being able to help people using science," she said. "I feel like I am one of those lucky few who get to do exactly what they want to do."

Previously: At TEDMED 2015: How microbiome studies could improve the future of humanity, Investigating the human microbiome: "We're only just beginning and there is so much more to explore" and Tiny hitchhikers, big health impact: Studying the microbiome to learn about disease
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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