Robert Cowles, MD

Associate Professor of Surgery (Pediatrics)

Research Departments & Organizations


Research Interests

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

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) is a regulator 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. 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.

Clinical Trials

Conditions Study Title
Children's Health Phase 3 Study to Compare Safety and Efficacy of Smoflipid 20% to Intralipid 20% in Hospitalized Neonates and Infants

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Contact Info

Robert Cowles, MD
Mailing Address
Pediatric SurgeryPO Box 208062
New Haven, CT 06520-8062

Curriculum Vitae

Enteric Neurogenesis

Whole mount section of the enteric nervous system (ENS) stained with anti-GFAP (red-glia) and an anti-GFP (green-new neuron) immunofluorescent antibodies revealing newly generated neurons after bowel resection in a mouse.