Rutgers microbiologists Martin J. Blaser and Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello.
Martin J. Blaser, director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, is the Henry Rutgers Chair of the Human Microbiome and a professor of medicine and microbiology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello is the Henry Rutgers Professor of Microbiome and Health in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and in the Department of Anthropology at the School of Arts and Sciences.
Photography by Roy Groething

Rutgers microbiologists Martin J. Blaser and Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, internationally esteemed for their pioneering work in investigating the widespread depletion in the diversity of the human microbiome, are the subject of The Invisible Extinction. The documentary chronicles the (married) couple’s research into the link between the microbiome—comprising the trillions of competing and cooperating bacteria, or microbes, teeming in and on our bodies—and diseases like diabetes, cancer, asthma, and autism. The feature-length film, which premiered at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival in March, follows their efforts in advocating for the protection of the microbiome and measures that can be taken to restore lost microbiome diversity—a common malady among populations living in industrialized nations. Contributing to compromised microbiomes are factors such as the overuse of antibiotics, elective C-sections, and the consumption of processed foods. The documentary also reveals the plans of Blaser and Dominguez-Bello to create the Micro-biota Vault—an international repository, modeled after the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway—that would contain strains of all known bacteria, which could be replicated and introduced into people suffering from a depleted microbiome and related diseases.