The research initiatives of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endoscopy unite basic science, translational and clinical research groups through a shared aim of expanding our understanding of digestive diseases; with an ultimate goal of identifying and developing new therapeutic strategies for the diagnosis, management and treatment of digestive disorders including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), liver diseases, hepatobiliary disease, pancreatic disease, and gastrointestinal cancers.

Some of the Division’s key research programs include:

Jessica Allegretti, MD, MPH - Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Allegretti's IBD research program explores environmental influences, women's health issues, and the use of existing and investigational therapies. She focuses on the intestinal microbiome's role in dysbiosis and microbial associated diseases. Her lab also evaluates new IBD treatments.

Learn more about Jessica Allegretti, MD, MPH

Richard Blumberg, MD - IBD, Mucosal Infections, Tumor Immunology and Vaccinology

Blumberg’s research focuses on the several areas that are highly relevant to IBD, mucosal infections, tumor immunology and vaccinology. These include: 1) Delineation of Carcinoembyronic Antigen Cell Adhesion Molecule 1 (CEACAM1) as an immune regulatory molecule; 2) Characterization of the nonclassical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class 1-related molecule, CD1; 3) Characterization of the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) for IgG; and 4) Defining the role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in the pathogenesis of IBD.

Learn more about Richard Blumberg, MD

Walter Chan, MD, MPH - Esophageal and Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders

Chan focuses on esophageal and gastrointestinal motility disorders, with a research focus on GERD and its extraesophageal manifestations, such as chronic pulmonary disorders and lung transplantation outcomes. He also studies laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) and collaborates with the BWH Voice Center to improve diagnostic approaches and identify targeted therapies for upper airway symptoms. Additionally, he investigates eosinophilic esophagitis, functional gastrointestinal disorders, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and anorectal/pelvic floor dysfunction.

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David Cohen, MD, PhD - Hepatic Metabolism and Energy Homeostasis

Cohen's research focuses on hepatic metabolism and energy homeostasis, particular in relation to NAFLD and NASH. His group has developed innovative methods to examine the regulation of hepatic metabolism by lipids and identified novel genes that suppress hepatic insulin signaling. The laboratory is also studying the role of gut microbiome in regulating hepatic glucose metabolism.

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Joshua Korzenik, MD - Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

Korzenik's research aims to develop new therapies based on novel understandings of ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and primary sclerosing cholangitis. This includes the role of hydrogen sulfide in these conditions. His research program includes the development of an animal model of ulcerative colitis, translational microbiome studies, and novel therapeutic approaches including as repurposing existing medications and dietary interventions.

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Sahar Nissim, MD, PhD - Pancreatic Cancer

Nissim’s laboratory studies the signaling and epigenetic determinants of pancreatic cancer to develop new interception and treatment strategies. Focus areas include whether reinforcing signaling and epigenetic processes that maintain normal acinar cell identity can intercept cancer-initiating mutations; investigations of RABL3 disruption as a therapeutic target in Kras-dependent cancers; and identifying novel causes of hereditary pancreatic cancer.

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Sapna Syngal, MD, MPH - Genetics and Prevention of Gastrointestinal Malignancies

Syngal focuses on genetics and prevention of gastrointestinal malignancies, especially colon and pancreatic cancer. Her work has helped define the clinical implications of novel etiologies for inherited colon cancer and developed new risk assessment tools for hereditary gastrointestinal malignancies that are now part of the standard of care.

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Carlo Traverso, PhD, MB, BChir - Molecular Biology, Materials Science, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering

Traverso’s expertise spans multiple disciplines that include molecular biology, materials science, chemical and biomedical engineering. Specifically, areas of focus include amplification of single DNA molecules from complex mixtures including stool, biomedical engineering with respect to device development including physical modes for drug delivery, polymer and biomaterial development for the fabrication of novel drug delivery systems, ingestible electronics, as well as small and large animal disease models. His investigations on the development of novel technologies for drug delivery and sensing via the gastrointestinal tract are aimed at transforming our ability to treat and diagnose patients through the application of biomedical engineering concepts to the gastrointestinal tract.

Learn more about Carlo Traverso, PhD, MB, BChir

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