Maude Magali David and Christine Tataru work in a neat and clean office. Sitting on bright pink exercise balls, the research duo analyzes data, occasionally standing to write on a whiteboard.
The tidy setting belies the nature of the less-than-sanitary subject of their work.
David and Tataru are interested in poop. Specifically, they're interested in the microbial life living in the poop of children. If they learn enough about those microbes, they hope, they will find similarities and differences between the gut-life of kids who have autism and those who don't. And that could change therapeutic approaches to treating autism spectrum David runs the Autism Microbiome project at the Stanford University School of Medicine. In the past several years, interest in the microbiome—bacteria, fungi and other single-celled organisms living on and within our bodies—has surged. These microbes were once considered either benign or dangerous, causing illness and disease. But we now know they also play a huge role in maintaining our health.
Gut Bugs Are Hot
The shift in perspective has been dramatic. Gut bugs are now credited as being instrumental in a host of critical processes: extracting food nutrients, developing organ systems, producing vitamins and training the immune system to behave properly. They have even been found to help regulate blood pressure.