Henrik Sjövall, MD PhD
The research program focuses on the involvement of the enteric nervous system (ENS) in the regulations of defence mechanisms in the small intestine and colon. These mechanisms are important parts of the intestinal innate immunity and involve regulation of the epithelial permeability, mucosal secretion of defence substances and epithelial cell renewal. The studies are conducted in animal models and humans, mostly in vivo but also using in vitro techniques.
One project is to study the physiology of enteric neuronal networks. Another project is to investigate ENS involvement in regulation of the mitotic activity in the crypts as well as the secretion of defensins from the Paneth´s cells and the secretion of immunoglobulins from the epithelial cells. This project also contains studies of how the stem cells are protected from toxic substances. A third project investigates the importance of ENS in regulation of both the epithelial permeability by measuring the passive transport of inert isotopes over the mucosa and of the mucosal fluid secretion. All these questions are also studied in biopsy material from patients with irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, diseases which we believe are due to disturbances in mucosal barrier function and innate immunity.