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November 9, 2018

Rising microbiome investigator: Lea Ann Chen, MD

Dr. Chen talks about her research on gastrointestinal illnesses and what motivated her to focus on the gut microbiome.

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We spoke with Dr. Chen, assistant professor of medicine at New York University and the recipient of the AGA Research Foundation’s 2016 Research Scholar Award, to learn about her work on the gut microbiome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).


How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

I study longitudinal changes of the gut microbiome as it relates to gastrointestinal illnesses, particularly IBD.


What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?

I hope that my research will provide greater insights into the role of gut microbes in disease pathogenesis and activity to ultimately inform the development of new diagnostics and treatments.


What inspired you to focus your research career on the gut microbiome?

I’ve long been fascinated by ecological systems and host-microbe interactions. As technologies to study the gut microbiome became more readily available, I was eager, and somewhat relieved, to be able to combine my research interests with my clinical interest in gastroenterology.


What recent publication from your lab best represents your work, if anyone wants to learn more?

In this study, we show that gut bacterial disturbances are resolved after fecal transplantation in children without IBD but are only transiently resolved in those with IBD.


Hourigan S*, Chen LA*, Grigoryan Z, Laroche G, Weidner M, Sears C, Oliva-Hemker M. Microbiome changes associated with sustained eradication of Clostridium difficile after fecal microbiota transplantation in children with and without inflammatory bowel disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2015; 42:741-752.


You’re involved with several AGA initiatives including the Future Leaders Program and the FMT National Registry. How has being an AGA member impacted your career?

AGA has provided key mentorship and training opportunities that have been instrumental in my career development. It has further helped me discover a diverse community of clinicians and scientists who are amazing role models, resources and colleagues. I really had no inkling what was in store when I first joined AGA as a trainee, but I feel very lucky that I did and am grateful for how AGA membership has really enriched my life as a gastroenterologist.


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