The research area of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition occupies more than 4,500 square feet within a fully equipped, sophisticated biomedical physical facility located at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Basic science programs in modern cell biology, biochemistry and molecular biology are also ongoing within the division. Laboratories of the division attract MD, PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists from around the world to participate in training. The research program is heavily supported by extramural funding, receiving approximately $2 million per year in extramural support from the National Institutes of Health, as well as several private foundations. The fellowship training program is supported by an award from the National Institute of Child Health and Development of the NIH. Together with investigators from the adult GI program and the Department of Developmental Biology, the division co-directs a Digestive Disease Research Core Center funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive Diseases and Kidney Disease of the NIH with $700,000 per year for core facilities for transgenic/knockout mice, tissue/cell culture, morphology and structural biology and for pilot and feasibility projects, as well as an intellectual enrichment program of seminars and symposiums in gastrointestinal physiology and diseases.
Among our research projects related to the liver are studies of the pathogenesis of biliary atresia, acute liver failure and application of decision analysis to the diagnosis of neonatal liver disease. Our hepatologists also study liver regeneration and steatosis and aflatoxin-mediated injury to the liver and its role in child growth and development. Our liver team also collaborates with national consortia studying the effects of cystic fibrosis on the liver and on the optimal way to manage immune suppression following liver transplants. Our inflammatory bowel disease specialists are defining the best way to manage children with Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis to provide the best care possible with the least impact on the well being of these children. They are active participants in national quality improvement networks and studies. We also have very active research programs that focus on the development of the enteric nervous system, which controls intestinal motility, and, when it is affected during gestation, can lead to Hirschsprung Disease. Finally, we are studying how the gastrointestinal tracts of children respond to specific pathogens, such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 and to the diverse and active microbial populations in disorders such as necrotizing enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel diseases and tropical enteropathy and stunting in children in poor countries throughout the world. Our division’s research is currently supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Discovery Institute of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. In the recent past, our faculty and even our trainees have also received support from the March of Dimes, the American Liver Foundation, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, the Doris Duke Clinical Scholars Program, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the National Institute of Child Health and Development Pediatric Scientist Training Program.
The division also oversees an NIDDK-funded T32 fellowship program designed to educate and equip outstanding young physicians for academic careers in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. The division’s goal is to combine a sound understanding of the principles of clinical pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition with the pursuit of excellence in fundamental research so that fellows become outstanding consultants, teachers and independent researchers.
The pediatric GI program is also incorporated into exciting research programs within the Center for Excellence in Animal Models of Pediatric Diseases of the Department of Pediatrics. This program, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development of the NIH provides funding for six junior faculty scholars, for an intellectual program in modern development/molecular biology and for a state-of-the-art transgenic/knockout mouse facility. The Pediatric Liver Program is one of seven participants nationally in the NIH-Funded Biliary Atresia Clinical Research Consortium
The division also plays an active role in the training programs for immunology, genetics, cell biology and molecular microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine.