Research in the Enteric Neuroscience Program at Mayo Clinic encompasses multiple areas of focus, including molecular, cellular and biological functions of the healthy enteric nervous system as well as research focused on specific gastrointestinal diseases and conditions. Researchers study the causes, mechanisms and optimal treatments for a wide variety of digestive diseases.

Cellular and molecular physiology of gastrointestinal disorders

The Cellular and Molecular Physiology of Gastrointestinal Disorders Laboratory, led by Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., studies the regulation of gastrointestinal motility in cells and disease models. The laboratory focuses on:

  • Developing new mechanistic and therapeutic approaches to diabetic gastroparesis research.
  • Explaining the role of interstitial cells of Cajal in slow transit constipation.
  • Understanding how mechanosensitive ion channels typically drive functions in the gastrointestinal tract.

Biology of the gastrointestinal neuromuscular system

The laboratory of Tamas Ordog, M.D., is focused on the molecular, cellular and translational biology of the gastrointestinal neuromuscular system, with particular focus on interstitial cells of Cajal. Understanding the genomics and epigenomics of interstitial cells of Cajal leads to mechanistic insight to therapeutic development for enteric neuromuscular disease and gastrointestinal stromal tumors.

Gastrointestinal barrier function

The Gastrointestinal Barrier Function Laboratory, led by Madhusudan Grover, M.B.B.S., is focused on:

  • Understanding how changes in the epithelial barrier function and gut microbiota play a role in development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after infection with Campylobacter jejuni.
  • Developing novel in vivo and ex vivo biomarkers for measurement of mucosal barrier function.
  • Conducting clinical trials for functional dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome, with an emphasis on conducting pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetic studies for novel treatment targets.

Gastrointestinal mechanotransduction

The Gastrointestinal Mechanotransduction Laboratory, led by Arthur Beyder, M.D., Ph.D., studies the molecular mechanisms of gastrointestinal function in health and disease to provide novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools for the patients with functional gastrointestinal diseases such as IBS and functional dyspepsia. The laboratory focuses on understanding how smooth muscle and enteroendocrine cells sense and respond to mechanical stimuli on the molecular level.

Gut microbiome

The Gut Microbiome Laboratory, led by Purna C. Kashyap, M.B.B.S., studies the mechanisms by which gut microbes influence health and disease. The laboratory focuses on how microbial colonization impacts host physiology and how different gut microbiomes respond to dietary interventions and in turn affect gastrointestinal physiology. Specific projects are aimed at:

  • Developing biomarkers to identify people who are at increased risk of Clostridium difficile infection and creating preventive microbiome-targeted interventions.
  • Better understanding the interplay of diet and genetics in the gut microbiomes of people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Enteric neurobiology

The Enteric Neurobiology Laboratory, led by David R. Linden, Ph.D., studies the mechanisms by which nerve cells influence gut function in health and disease. The laboratory focuses on mechanistic understanding of how changes in nerve cell structure or function, known as neuroplasticity, can cause or treat digestive diseases. Specific projects are aimed at developing neuroregenerative approaches as new therapeutic approaches for enteric neuropathies.