Gianrico Farrugia, MD
Research efforts in my laboratory are aimed at understanding the regulation of gastrointestinal motility in health and disease. Our major projects include the study of the physiological and pathophysiological relevance of Ca2+ and Na+ mechanosensitive ion channels. Work in this area is directed towards understanding the mechanisms that transduce force into a change in open probability, the role mechanosensitive ion channels play in regulating gastrointestinal motility, and how mutations in these channels may underlie motility diseases. Another major project is the role of a specialized intestinal cell type, the interstitial cell of Cajal, in the regulation of gastrointestinal motility. Loss of interstitial cell of Cajal is associated with several motility disorders. The laboratory studies the ionic mechanisms that underlie generation of the pacemaker signal in interstitial cell of Cajal and the factors that contribute to interstitial cell of Cajal growth, survival and proliferation. The goal is to treat motility disorders, including gut complications of diabetes, by targeting interstitial cell of Cajal. Our third major area of interest is the role of carbon monoxide as a messenger molecule. Our work focuses on the role of carbon monoxide as an enteric neurotransmitter, as a messenger molecule that sets smooth muscle membrane potential, and as a regulator of cell survival.