Exploring Associations between Microbiome and Autism

Understanding possible connections between the microbiome and the central nervous system to identify therapeutic targets

March 2021

Dr. Maude David from Oregon State University shared her recent experience in collaboratively leading a Highly Integrative Basic and Responsive (HIBAR) research project intended to understand the possible connection between the microbiome – the community of organisms that live in a person’s gut – and the central nervous system.

One of her current projects is a HIBAR collaboration with researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Second Genome, a company based in South San Francisco, California. The goal of the project, funded by a federal Small Business Innovation Research grant, is to study associations between the human microbiome and several neurological disorders, including autism spectrum disorder. The research team is using a crowdsource approach to collect diet habits and microbiome data to better understand the mechanisms and identify therapeutic targets for autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior.

Dr. David described her research as well some challenges she has faced while working on this and other HIBAR projects, including those associated with crowdsource study and communicating with others about topics that are of significant public interest and may inadvertently lead to the spread of misinformation. She also discussed accessing sensitive data from societal partners and the need to provide adequate infrastructure for both the researcher and the study participant.

Key Takeaway Messages

  • It is vital for researchers to communicate effectively with societal stakeholders.
  • Getting to know a broad range of local stakeholders can, over time, lead to fruitful research collaborations.
  • Universities often offer communication training for faculty members.

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Dr. Maude David
Oregon State University

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