Research Interests

We examine the effects of inflammation on the neuron-smooth muscle cell relationship of the intestine, with the purpose of better understanding the effects of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the human. We use both animal models of intestinal inflammation (DSS; TNBS) and human tissue, employing methods that range from the molecular to the cellular level. Examples are the use of expression vectors, western blotting and functional assays, and immunocytochemistry and image analysis of tissue sections.

Establishing a better knowledge of physiology allows investigation of the changes seen in the inflamed intestine. Little is known in this area and the studies of normal and inflamed tissue commonly proceed in parallel. Our recent work has shown that transmural inflammation of the rat colon causes irreversible loss of myenteric and submucosal neurons. Further, we found that rapid and extensive axonal proliferation by the surviving neurons re-innervates the smooth muscle cells. This may be directly applicable to our understanding of human disease, since neuronal loss and damage could lead to the symptoms associated with inflammation, as well as those of post-enteritis Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).