Areas of Focus

Understanding the Development of Necrotizing Enterocolitis and Identifying Novel Treatments for this Devastating Disease

Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) is the leading cause of death and disability in premature infants. Simply put, NEC involves the sudden and seemingly inexplicable death of parts of the intestine that leads to overwhelming sepsis and death of the baby in half of cases. NEC strikes suddenly and without warning. Typically manifesting as mild difficulty in tolerating feeding, within 24 hours it progresses to severe abdominal distention, high fever and often death. Unfortunately, treatment with antibiotics and surgery is often not successful. The Hackam Lab is committed to understanding the cellular and molecular events leading to NEC development and identifying novel therapies for this devastating disease.

Generation of an Artificial Intestine – To grow and propagate intestinal stem cells onto a customized intestinal scaffold bearing the properties of human intestine, which will allow for nutrient absorption in the treatment of children with short bowel syndrome.

TLR4 Regulation and Signaling – Toll-like Receptor-4 (TLR4) is an innate immune receptor that detects LPS. Previously, we have shown increased TLR4 expression and signaling on enterocytes in NEC, which leads to an exaggerated release of cytokines and impairs gut migration and proliferation. This discovery provides novel insights into a potential therapeutic strategy to reduce the severity of NEC and other intestinal diseases.

Gut Development – To understand the pathogenesis of NEC, it is crucial to understand the changes of the gut during fetal development and birth. This has led us to explore the role of TLR4 and TLR9 in gut development of preterm infants.

Stem Cell Biology – Our lab is seeking to understand the role of intestinal stem cells in gut injury such as NEC.

Drug Discovery – In collaboration with other labs, we have developed highly efficient drug screening assays to test novel compounds that may modulate toll-like receptors.

Two key current projects are helping to better understand the mechanisms involved in NEC.

Last Update
November 4, 2013
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Last Update
November 4, 2013