Research Activities

Research Activities

Clinical Research

Dr. Paul Schroy has attained significant notoriety and prominence on the national and international levels as a leading investigator in developing colorectal cancer screening strategies.  He is also investigating the use of other modalities for the detection of colorectal cancer, including virtual colonoscopy and stool-based DNA testing modalities.  Dr. Brian Jacobson successfully procured funding from the NIH to investigate the natural history of Barrett’s esophagus in women in the Nurse’s Health Study. Dr. Jacobson has also mentored several fellows exploring methods to both assess and improve colon preparations for colonoscopy

Dr. David Nunes has continued his active collaboration with the Section of Infectious Diseases at Boston University as a Co-Investigator of an NIH grant that evaluates interactions in individuals co-infected with hepatitis C and HIV.  He has also continued to obtain funding from industry to evaluate various treatment modalities for hepatitis C and other hepatitidies.  These studies constitute a very important sector of the clinical research being performed in the Section of Gastroenterology.

Dr. Albena Halpert is involved in the examination of various strategies for the management of functional bowel disorders.  Dr. Marcos Pedrosa, Director of Endoscopy at the Boston VA Medical Center, is continuing his studies investigating surveillance strategies, as well as treatment of, Barrett’s esophagus.  He is also engaged in hepatitis C protocols, utilizing various agents to treat this very common disorder.  He was also actively involved in studies that include other investigators throughout the United States in the use of photodynamic therapy (PDT) for the ablation of high-grade dysplasia in Barrett’s esophagus.  Finally, he has been an active participant in VA cooperative studies evaluating the use of colchicines and other agents in the treatment of alcoholic liver disease.

Dr. Farraye’s research includes investigating vitamin D absorption in patients with Crohn’s disease; the management and diagnosis of dysplasia and cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease; pouchitis after ileal pouch anal anastomosis; vaccinations in patients with inflammatory bowel disease; and the role of hyperplastic polyps as an alternative pathway to the development of colorectal cancer.

Basic Research

Excellence in biomedical research constitutes the principal emphasis and effort of the Section of Gastroenterology at Boston University School of Medicine, which continues to gain prominence in both basic and clinical research arenas.  The research emphasis includes epithelial cell biology, gastrointestinal carcinogenesis, obesity and other metabolic disorders.

Dr. Barbara E. Corkey’s laboratory focuses on the metabolic regulation of signal transduction and energy metabolism in fat cells, β-cells, and human fibroblasts. She and her colleagues have been studying fuel-stimulated insulin secretion by the pancreatic β-cell; fuel partitioning in rat adipocytes; cytokine signaling; and Ca2+ transients in human fibroblasts from patients with inborn errors of fatty acid oxidation and Type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Jude Deeney’s research is designed to discern the nutrient-derived metabolic signals leading to glucose- and fatty acid-induced insulin secretion from the pancreatic β-cell. These studies entail the measurement of intracellular calcium, lipids, ATP, and other metabolites, in addition to protein phosphorylation and acylation, which may influence insulin exocytosis.

Dr. Gustavo Mostoslavsky research goal is to advance our understanding of stem cell biology with a focus on their genetic manipulation via gene transfer and their potential use for stem cell-based therapy. By discovering the mechanisms involved in stem cell self-renewal and differentiation it will be possible to manipulate stem cell fate and use it as the basis for the correction of several diseases. Projects in the Mostoslavsky lab focus on the use of different stem cell populations, including embryonic and induced Pluripotent stem cells (iPs), hematopoietic stem cells and intestinal stem cells.

Dr. Gwynneth Offner continues her investigation on the role of mucins in the biliary tract, gallbladder, gastrointestinal tract, and the oral cavity.  She has continued her collaboration with Dr. Michael O’Brien in studies examining the molecular mechanisms of hepatic fibrosis.  Dr. Offner has also continued her active collaborative program with members of the Boston University School of Dentistry to examine the structure and function of human salivary mucins, and they have been performing these studies to determine the mechanisms by which mucins lead to different functions in the oral cavity.

Dr. Orian Shirihai’s laboratory studies two disease models in which oxidative damage to mitochondria play a key role in the development of pathology. In diabetes, nutrient-induced oxidative damage has been shown to be a major mediator of endocrine dysfunction and beta cell loss. In bone marrow, oxidative damage induced by iron and heme-intermediates, leads to the development of sideroblastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.

The main interests of Dr. Satish Singh’s lab are (1) epithelial permselectivity, transport, and injury; (2) hormonal regulation of gut transport related to obesity and (4) novel spectroscopic approaches to endoscopic diagnosis and treatment. Currently, we are attempting to define (1) the nature of the barrier in crypts, (2) the apical permeability properties of the more mature colonic surface epithelium (3) the transporters involved in pHi homeostasis in polarized crypt and surface cell preparations.  Finally, an exciting area of clinical / translational interest in our laboratory is the development of endoscopic spectroscopy for the detection and treatment of GI cancers. In collaboration with Professor Irving Bigio of the Department of Biomedical Engineering as well as with an international team, we are developing and validating a variety of fiberoptic biopsy instruments that can aid in the detection of mucosal dysplasia as well as guide therapy using tissue spectroscopy. These approaches hold great promise for making “smart” instruments to guide biopsies, detect tumor margins, identify dyspastic tissue, and provide information on mucosal pharmacokinetics throughout the GI tract.

Dr. H. Christian Weber is examining the role of receptors to bombesin-like peptides in the development of gastrointestinal malignancies.  In addition to their role in the development of gastrointestinal neoplasia, he has begun to collaborate with members of the Obesity Center at Boston University in determining the role of these peptides in obesity and in appetite suppression.