Eva Ekblad, PhD, Professor
Professor Eva Ekblad conducts this research group whose work is focused on the enteric nervous system.
Intestinal activities are controlled and co-ordinated by way of neuronal reflexes involving both extrinsic and intramural neurones, the enteric nervous system (ENS).
Much has been accomplished since the ENS was considered nothing more than parasympathetic relay ganglia. We now know that the ENS consists of highly complex neural circuits and a diversity of neuronal types and displays reflex activity independent of the central nervous system (CNS), which makes it unique in comparison to other divisions of the autonomic nervous system. Complex behaviours such as peristalsis and secretion are made possible by the presence of sensory, inter and secretomotor neurones within the gut.
These insights have fostered the hypothesis that the ENS, in analogy to the CNS, is an adaptive and plastic system but also vulnerable to lesions and that ENS disturbances may be of pathogenic importance in functional bowel disease.
Our current project aims to define the significance of the enteric nervous system for normal intestinal activity and in adaptive and patophysiological conditions. Dysmotility, neuronal plasticity in terms of changes in the expression of neurotransmitters and neuronal cell death due to axonal injury, intestinal inflammation, hypertrophic growth, atrophic conditions and intestinal ischaemia are characterised.
Dysfunction, particularly dysmotility, accompanies most gastrointestinal diseases. Studies on the involvement of the enteric nervous system and the degree of neuronal plasticity and cell death in response to injury or intestinal adaptation will provide important insights in the regulation of neuronal maintenance, growth and activity. Such knowledge will provide the basis to identify neurological disorders in the gastro-intestinal tract.