Gastroenterology Research


The Division is recognized nationally and internationally for its contributions to diagnostic/therapeutic endoscopy, inflammatory bowel disease, and GI outcomes research.


Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Investigators, led by Fabio Cominelli, MD, PhD, formed an integrated team to explore multiple aspects of intestinal inflammation utilizing clinical resources as well as animal models of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Some of the topics under investigation include intestinal cytokine regulation, immune-nonimmune cell interactions, extracellular matrix biology, tolerance to indigenous intestinal flora, and state-of-the-art gene expression profiling by DNA microaray technology.

In collaboration with the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, these investigators have been previously awarded by the National Institutes of Health a large five-year program project grant to study pediatric inflammatory bowel disease, the only such program in the country during that period.

Basic research is complemented by a variety of clinical and translational studies. Drs. Jeffry Katz and Dahlia Awais are actively participating in clinical trials with new therapies for inflammatory bowel disease, studies of disease natural history, evaluation of new diagnostic approaches and techniques, and assessment and prevention of colon cancer risk.


Health Services and Outcomes Research

The research in the emerging field of Health Services and Outcomes Research encompasses several interrelated areas including the use of large healthcare and tumor registry databases, decision analysis, and identification of risk factors and outcome prediction in common gastrointestinal conditions. There is active collaboration of divisional faculty with members of the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Sociology, and Health Systems Management.

Dr. Gregory Cooper's main interests are large database research, alternative screening and surveillance strategies, and assessment of quality of care. Margaret Kinnard, MD, is studying genetic, environmental, and behavioral risk factors for gastrointestinal cancer, as well as the role of screening in cancer prevention.

Division investigators have been successful in obtaining grant funding from the NIH, American Cancer Society, American Digestive Health Foundation, and Glaxo Institute for Digestive Health, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and have published extensively in the gastroenterology, oncology, and health service literature.


Barrett's Esophagus and Esophageal Cancer

Investigators, led by Amitabh Chak, MD, are studying some of the factors that may cause Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer to run in families, including analyzing blood for genetic markers for both diseases.


Bioengineering and Endoscopic Research

The research interests in Bioengineering and Endoscopic Research span several areas of medical physics and bioengineering related to optical remote sensing and high-resolution imaging within the body. Current research topics include high-resolution sub-surface endoscopic imaging using optical interferometry, spectroscopic characterization of pre-cancerous states in grastrointestinal tissues, and spectrally resolved confocal microscopy. Amitabh Chak, MD, is one of three investigators participating in an NIH research funded protocol screening patients in a primary care setting for Barret's esophagus with in-office unsedated small-caliber endoscopy.



Aspects of clinical expertise in hepatology include the management of acute and chronic liver disease, adult and pediatric liver transplantation, and radiological evaluation and therapy in chronic liver disease. The latter includes procedures such as ultrasound, liver biopsy, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS), Doppler scanning of hepatic and renal blood flow, and MRI and PET scans as applied to hepatic diagnostic problems. Several current clinical trials for chronic viral hepatitis treatment are in progress. More recently, clinical trials evaluating the management of hepatocellular carcinoma have been adopted. In addition, clinical trials in transplant patients, and patients with fulminant liver failure are ongoing.