Joseph Pierre Awarded $423,292 Grant to Study Hirschsprung Disease in Newborns

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Joseph F. Pierre, PhD, an assistant professor in the Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Biochemistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, received a $423,292 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the pathophysiology of Hirschsprung Disease in newborns. Ankush Gosain, MD, PhD, a professor in the Departments of Surgery and Pediatrics is the multiple principal investigator for the project.

Dr. Joesph Pierre

Hirschsprung-associated enterocolitis is a life-threatening complication of Hirschsprung Disease,  a common cause of intestinal obstruction in the newborn, even following corrective surgery. While microbial triggers appear to contribute to the onset of the disease, current treatments including antibiotics and bowel rinse, have yet to show a decrease in symptoms. Drs. Pierre, Gosain, and their research teams aim to determine how the gut mucosal immune system interacts with intestinal fungal pathogens.

“The first goal is understanding what fungi the immune system is “seeing” and responding to utilizing flow sorting strategies, Dr. Pierre said. “Then, we will establish a novel human enteroid monolayer model to examine epithelial barrier and immune response to fungal pathogens in Hirschsprung’s patients.”

The study titled, “Modeling Host-Fungal Interactions in Hirschsprung-Associated Enterocolitis,” will take place over two years.