by Bill Snyder
James Goldenring, MD, PhD, the Paul W. Sanger Professor of Experimental Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been honored by the American Gastroenterological Association for making significant contributions to understanding gastrointestinal disease.
Goldenring, vice chair of Surgical Research for the Section of Surgical Sciences and professor of Surgery and of Cell and Developmental Biology, will receive the AGA’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Basic Science during Digestive Disease Week in Chicago in May.
In its announcement, the AGA noted Goldenring’s groundbreaking studies of congenital diarrheal diseases, and his group’s models of metaplastic (precancerous) changes in the stomach.
“Dr. Goldenring’s seminal studies of both epithelial pathophysiology and gastric precancer have made immeasurable contributions to our understanding of GI diseases,” the announcement read.
While the incidence of gastric cancer in U.S. men continues to decline, among women it has leveled off in recent years. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 26,500 people will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and more than 11,000 will die from it.
In 1999 Goldenring and his colleagues were the first to describe spasmolytic polypeptide-expressing metaplasia, a lineage of metaplastic cells in the stomach that change from one cell type to another, and which are associated with the development of gastric cancer.
The researchers are using metaplastic and dysplastic organoids, three-dimensional tissue cultures isolated from mice and humans, to identify the characteristics of precancerous stem cell populations. Their work is aiding the search for new drugs that potentially will slow — and perhaps reverse — metaplasia, and thus reduce the risk of gastric cancer.
Microvillus inclusion disease (MVID) is a rare genetic disorder that causes severe diarrhea and the inability to absorb nutrients. There is no effective treatment.
Children with congenital diarrhea usually need specialized intravenous nutrition (parenteral nutrition) to avoid dehydration and to provide the nutrients they need to grow normally.
MVID is associated with the loss of a motor protein that moves enzymes and transporters involved in nutrient absorption to the intestinal surface (epithelium).
Goldenring’s lab has found that this protein also is essential for stem cell maturation and normal intestinal function. This suggests that alternate methods for promoting cell differentiation in the intestine could provide a potential strategy for treating MVID.