Interstitial Cells of Cajal

Essential for normal gastrointestinal motility, interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) are specialized cells found throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Dr. Farrugia's laboratory studies both the function and structure of ICC in normal, healthy tissue, as well as in tissues taken from people with motility disorders such as chronic constipation.

ICC basic science

Basic science projects in the laboratory are focused on the ion channels that contribute to the electrical properties of ICC and on the regulation of ICC proliferation and survival by a variety of growth factors and neurohumoral factors. Serotonin (also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT) and nitric oxide have been identified as regulators of ICC numbers, and some of the signaling mechanisms activated by these molecules have been identified.

The lab has also determined that the Ca2+-activated Cl- channel Ano1 (TMEM16A) is a key contributor to the regulation of proliferation in ICC and is important in the generation of electrical slow waves.

ICC clinical science

The laboratory's clinical studies have identified several motility disorders that are associated with the depletion of ICC. The lab's work with the Gastroparesis Clinical Research Consortium is a major part of these studies.