HCEO recently met with HI network member Marie-Claire Arrieta to learn more about her work studying what the gut microbiome of babies tells us about that child's likelihood of developing asthma later in life.

"This is somewhat of a new field of research because asthma has never been studied in the context of microbes before," Arrieta says. Asthma was long understood as primarily an immune disease of the lungs. "We now understand that when changes occur to the microbes that live in our gut, this can either increase or decrease the risk of developing asthma later on."

Her lab studies how the microbiome develops in human populations. By following a baby as she grows, you can discern her risk of developing asthma based on her gut microbes. "Up until now, microbes were not considered to be part of the equation of this immune disease, but now this has been a bit of a game changer in the field," Arrieta says.

"I hope that in the next 10 or 20 years, we will be able to find what we call biomarkers that can predict the risk of a baby and his or her risk of developing asthma later on," she says. "And hopefully…we can find potential therapeutics to try and reduce this risk."

Arrieta is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Physiology, Pharmacology and Pediatrics at the University of Calgary.