Research Interests

  • Stricture formation in Crohn’s disease
    • how inflammation disturbs the neuromuscular layer of the intestine
  • The enteric nervous system
    • post-natal development, maintenance and plasticity
  • Novel interventions for improved outcomes of intestinal inflammation
    • Control of smooth muscle proliferation in vivo
    • Manipulation of the PDGF-BB and PDGF-Rβ  signaling axis; regulation of signaling outcomes via intracellular Ca
    • Induced expression of the neurotrophin GDNF for preservation of the intestinal nervous system
    • Markers of epigenetic change in Crohn’s disease and their consequences to physiological processes

Key cellular systems, processes and signaling targets

Intestinal smooth muscle

  • Growth factors, cytokines and intracellular activation of smooth muscle proliferation
  • Epigenetic change and phenotype in proliferating smooth muscle
  • Regulation of GDNF expression, maturation and secretion by smooth muscle 

Enteric nervous system

  • GDNF, neuronal survival and axonal plasticity in inflammation, ischemia and hypoxia
  • RET activation and downstream second messengers causing axonal proliferation

Nerve/smooth muscle interaction

  • Role of diffusible vs matrix factors on target selection by enteric neurons
  • Control of smooth muscle phenotype by innervation

Animal models of human disease (Crohn’s; IBD)

  • TNBS-induced inflammation of the mid-descending colon of rodents (rats; mice)
  • DSS-induced inflammation of the mouse colon

Selected publications

Han TY, Lourenssen S, Miller KG, and Blennerhassett MG (2015). Intestinal smooth muscle phenotype determines enteric neuronal survival via GDNF expression.  Neuroscience 290:357-68

Venkataramana S, Lourenssen S, Miller KG, and Blennerhassett MG (2015).  Early inflammatory damage to intestinal neurons occurs via inducible nitric oxide synthase.  Neurobiol. Dis. 75:40-52

Nair DG, Miller KG, Lourenssen SR and Blennerhassett MG (2014).  Inflammatory cytokines promote growth of intestinal smooth muscle cells by induced expression of PDGF-Rβ.  J Cell Mol. Med. 18(3):444-54

Gougeon PY, Lourenssen S, Han TY, Nair DG, Ropeleski MJ, and Blennerhassett MG (2013).  The pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNFα are neurotrophic for enteric neurons.  J Neurosci. 20;33(8):3339-51

Pelletier AM, Venkataramana S, Miller KG, Bennett BM, Nair DG, Lourenssen S and Blennerhassett MG (2010).  Neuronal nitric oxide inhibits intestinal smooth muscle growth.  Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 298(6):G896-907