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Robert Cowles, MD

Professor of Surgery (Pediatrics)

Contact Information

Robert Cowles, MD

Mailing Address

  • Pediatric Surgery

    PO Box 208062

    New Haven, CT 06520-8062

    United States

Research Summary

My laboratory is interested in the relationship between the enteric nervous system (ENS) and intestinal mucosal homeostasis. The ENS controls nearly every function of the bowel via a variety of neurotransmitters and peptide hormones. Understanding these actions has the potential to lead to new treatments for intestinal disorders.

Extensive Research Description

Our laboratory has found that serotonin (5-HT) and acetylcholine (ACh) are regulators of enterocyte turnover in the small intestine. Mouse models of 5-HT excess result in taller villi, deeper crypts, increased crypt cell division and increased enterocyte apoptosis in the ileum. Pharmacologic enhancement of 5-HT signaling has similar effects. The neural and cellular mechanisms that are involved in this process are under active investigation.

Other studies within our laboratory seek to understand how the enteric nervous system (ENS) responds to injury and how the microbiome may affect mucosal proliferation. The ENS is equivalent to the central nervous system (CNS) but its layers of protection from injury are significantly less. This suggests that it must have an ability to replace injured and dead components. In preliminary studies, we have found that intestinal ischemic injury results in neurogenesis in the ENS, a novel finding.


Research Interests

Biliary Tract; Digestive System Diseases; Epithelial Cells; Epithelium; Liver; Neuroglia; Neurons; Pancreas; Gastrointestinal Tract

Research Image

Selected Publications