Focus on Research: Gut Motility Lab

High-fat diet (HFD) intake–like the average “Western diet”–can lead to gastrointestinal complications that can lead to increased morbidity and mortality. Excessive dietary fat intake correlates with constipation, prolonged colonic transit times, and other complications. Emory gastroenterologists Drs. Shanthi Srinivasan and Jennifer Christie (Division of Digestive Diseases) have an NIH R01 grant to study the association of fecal metabolites with neuronal survival/impairment and their relationship to gastrointestinal motility disorders. Their gastroenterology-motility lab studies the mechanism of enteric neuronal damage in mice with high-fat diet intakes. They pay particular attention to the colonic microbiota of the mice, focusing on a novel concept that high-fat-diet-induced alterations in microbial flora can result in altered gastrointestinal motility. In other words, they study how diabetes affects the enteric nervous system, thereby altering gastrointestinal motility. Injury to enteric neurons in the setting of diabetes may include neuronal cell death as well as injury to axonal processes.

Their goal is to understand the role of intestinal dysbiosis (a complex of microorganism species living in the digestive tracts) in high-fat-diet-induced delayed gastrointestinal motility and to better understand the mechanisms behind it. They believe that a high-fat, “Western diet” can ultimately lead to endotoxemia and subsequent enteric neuronal damage. Our preliminary data showed evidence that in the presence of prebiotics there was improvement in high fat diet induced delayed gastrointestinal motility. To understand the involvement of fecal microbiota in the mechanism of high fat diet-induced delayed gastrointestinal motility, they perform experiments using germ-free mice as well as “wild type” (WT) mice. They have designed a unique “Western-diet” for the mice and will assess its impact on the enteric nervous system survival and intestinal motility.

Their future projects will involve assessing the effects of fecal transplant from HFD fed mice to WT mice and germ-free mice on gastrointestinal motility and enteric neuronal survival.

 More about Dr. Srinivasan

Shanthi Srinivasan, MD

Shanthi Srinivasan, MD completed her medical training at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. She completed her residency and gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Srinivasan continued her gastroenterology fellowship at Washington University – St. Louis. She then served on the faculty at Washington University for two years. She joined the Emory University faculty in 2003. Dr. Srinivasan’s clinical interest is in gastrointestinal motility disorders, with a focus on diabetes and how it affects gastrointestinal motility. She teaches Year 2 medical students and graduate students in Emory’s neuroscience program. Read more


More about Dr. Christie

Jennifer A. Christie, MD

Jennifer A. Christie, MD is an assistant professor of medicine in the Emory University Division of Digestive Diseases. She also serves as director of Gastrointestinal Motility at Emory. Dr. Christie MD from Howard University. She completed her internal medicine residency at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and her fellowship in gastroenterology at The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Dr. Christie’s research and clinical focus is in creating and testing interventions to reduce racial/ethnic disparities with regard to colon cancer screening. Furthermore, she is interested in understanding the impact that functional bowel disorders such as chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome have on men and women. Read more


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About the Author

Emory Department of Medicine
Emory Department of Medicine
The Emory University Department of Medicine, within the Emory University School of Medicine, is steeped in a rich tradition of excellence. Through the work of its nine divisions and numerous centers and institutes, the department has pioneered discoveries in medicine, education, scientific and clinical investigation, and clinical care. Emory University School of Medicine's medical school, residency, transitional-year, and fellowship programs offer students the latest knowledge in treatment practices, scientific theories, research, and patient care. The Emory University Department of Medicine is a component of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University, which includes the Emory schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare.

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