Robert A Cowles, MD

Associate Professor of Surgery (Pediatrics)

Research Interests

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

Research Organizations


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.

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Contact Info

Robert A Cowles, MD
Patient Care Locations
Yale Pediatric Specialty Center747 Belden Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06850
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Yale Pediatric Specialty CenterGreenwich Hospital - 5 Perryridge Road
5 Perryridge Rd

Greenwich, CT 06830
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Pediatric Specialty CenterYale New Haven Children's Hospital
1 Park Street, Ste West Pavilion, 2nd floor

New Haven, CT 06504
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Yale Surgery- Pediatric SurgeryPark Avenue Medical Center
5520 Park Avenue, Ste 1st Floor

Trumbull, CT 06611
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Yale Pediatric Specialty CenterOld Saybrook Medical Center
633 Middlesex Turnpike

Old Saybrook, CT 06475
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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.