Dr. Omry Koren - Head, Microbiome Research Lab, School of Medicine


Dr. Omry Koren – Senior Lecturer and Head of the Microbiome Research Lab at The Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University

 Fresh off completing his post-doc at Cornell University, Dr. Omry Koren ventured on a new scientific mission, with Zionist aspects – he joined BIU’s new School of Medicine in Safed, moving his entire family to the northern region of Israel’s Galilee, to head the School’s Microbiome Research Lab.

The new field of microbiome research has led to the understanding that the microbiota within us has many effects on our health and well-being: influencing our metabolism, immunity, and even behavior.  Koren, who, in the short few years since joining BIU, has already received the prestigious Marie Curie Career Integration Grant and the Alon Fellowship, studies the microbiome in health and disease. “We focus on understanding the link between hormonal changes and the gut microbiota,” explains Koren. “Our main interest is the microbiome changes in women during pregnancy, post-partum an in other stages of their lives.”

So why are gut bacteria such a big deal? “There is currently no scientific research into the microbial effects of adults,” explains Koren, “as opposed to babies who feed on breast milk.” He uses a comparison of people of different weights: “there are observable differences in the microbiome of obese and thin people. The microbiome of thin people tends to be more diverse. When researchers transferred gut bacteria from obese humans into thin mice, those mice grew fatter than a control group eating the same diet.”

The best way to change our microbiome and improve our health, says Koren, is changing our diet.

There is no magic solution here. Changing your diet has the quickest impact, but there’s more to it than that, because the bacteria in your intestines are also influenced by factors like genetics and your immune system.” But Koren won’t say whether the change is a favorable one, since science has yet to prove which groups of bacteria are preferable. “Some groups of bacteria are associated with metabolic syndrome,” explains Koren, “and those are very important and beneficial in pregnancy and other conditions.”

So what can each of us do to improve our health? Koren laughs: “I might sound like every doctor, nurse or nutritionist you’ve ever met – exercise. And eat well. I know I try to.”


For more about Dr. Koren's work click here.