About this Lab
Our research applies molecular and genomic tools in facilitating fundamental understanding of the interactions between the gut microbiota and host health. Following the conceptual framework of Koch’s postulates, we use a combination of strain-level metagenomic analysis and metabolomics to identify gut bacterial strains that may mechanistically contribute to human health and diseases, validate their causative role(s), and elucidate molecular mechanisms using gnotobiotic animal models. Only after such rigorous mechanistic studies may these bacterial genomes become both biomarkers and targets for new gut-specific therapies.
Current research projects in the Zhao Lab primarily focus on developing gut microbiota-targeted interventions to restore and improve human health. We propose a "health-centric" approach to manipulate the gut microbiota—to build or restore a healthy gut ecosystem that is able to provide all the functions that benefit the human host (e.g., short-chain fatty acid production) and to maintain a gut environment that keeps the detrimental bacteria at bay. Our work spans across a wide range of research, from product development, basic science research to clinical trials, to develop interventions that are built upon fundamentals of microbial ecology and systems biology, and most importantly are applicable in the clinical setting. Our group has expertise in microbiology, nutrition, clinical dietetics, food science and bioinformatics. We also work with an extensive network of local and international collaborators to pursue multidisciplinary research that targets the gut microbiota in metabolic wellbeing, gastrointestinal functions, cancer care and infant health.