A photo of Kelli VanDussen.

Kelli L. VanDussen, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



Crohn’s disease is a serious chronic inflammatory bowel disease that harms the digestive tract and the cells lining the digestive tract, which are called epithelial cells. This condition can be life-threatening and leads to anemia, weight loss, fatigue and abdominal pain.

My lab’s research focuses on Crohn’s disease and the epithelial cells lining the intestine. We have developed ways to grow intestinal epithelial cells in a dish so that we can study how specific patients’ cells are affected by disease, diet or microbes. Overall, we are attempting to discover how intestinal epithelial cells work in an environment that is healthy compared to an environment that is diseased or injured, like in Crohn’s disease.

I first began studying intestinal stem cells in graduate school. My research focused on how these stem cells make choices that lead them to become one of the many types of mature intestinal epithelial cells, all of which are needed to have a healthy gut. I became fascinated with intestinal stem cells.

During my postdoctoral work, I continued to research intestinal stem cells, but in the context of Crohn’s disease. Along with my collaborators, I developed one of the first protocols to grow human intestinal epithelial cells in a dish, otherwise known as primary intestinal epithelial cell culture. With our method, the cultured intestinal stem cells renew rapidly and produce more daughter cells. Having a large number of epithelial cells allows us to perform certain research techniques that require a lot of cells, like screening a library of candidate factors that might affect stem cell function. Currently, I have more than 15 years of experience in intestinal epithelium research.

More recently, my research lab has begun to study one of the mature cell types of the intestinal epithelium called enterocytes. Enterocytes are important for the digestion and absorption of nutrients we receive from our diets. These cells can also sense changes in diet, microbes that live in the gut, and other signals in their environment and communicate this information to neighboring cells. We are using a translational approach to study enterocytes in patients who are healthy or have Crohn’s disease and in experimental models, like our primary intestinal epithelial cell culture system. Our goal is to learn how to stimulate the healthy activities of intestinal epithelial cells to prevent disease and promote healing.

I joined the team at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 2018 and am currently funded by a K01 mentored career award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). My research has been published in prestigious journals such as Development, the EMBO Journal and Gastroenterology.

BS: Biomedical Science, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, 2004.

PhD: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2010.

Postdoctoral Fellow: Pathology & Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, St Louis, MO, 2010-2016.

Instructor: Pathology & Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, St Louis, MO, 2016-2018.


Intestinal epithelium; inflammatory bowel disease; primary cell culture; basic research; translational research

Research Areas

Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition



The Promise of Patient-Derived Colon Organoids to Model Ulcerative Colitis. Ojo, BA; Vandussen, KL; Rosen, MJ. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. 2022; 28:299-308.


Western diet induces Paneth cell defects through microbiome alterations and farnesoid X receptor and type I interferon activation. Liu, TC; Kern, JT; Jain, U; Sonnek, NM; Xiong, S; Simpson, KF; VanDussen, KL; Winkler, ES; Haritunians, T; Malique, A; et al. Cell Host and Microbe. 2021; 29:988-1001.e6.


Epithelial Cell Biomarkers Are Predictive of Response to Biologic Agents in Crohn's Disease. Osterman, MT; Vandussen, KL; Gordon, IO; Davis, EM; Li, K; Simpson, K; Ciorba, M; Glover, SC; Abraham, B; Guo, X; et al. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. 2021; 27:677-685.


Neonatal Mouse Gut Metabolites Influence Cryptosporidium parvum Infection in Intestinal Epithelial Cells. Vandussen, KL; Funkhouser-Jones, LJ; Akey, ME; Schaefer, DA; Ackman, K; Riggs, MW; Stappenbeck, TS; David Sibley, L. mBio. 2020; 11:e02582-e02520.


Abnormal Small Intestinal Epithelial Microvilli in Patients With Crohn's Disease. VanDussen, KL; Stojmirovic, A; Li, K; Liu, T; Kimes, PK; Muegge, BD; Simpson, KF; Ciorba, MA; Perrigoue, JG; Friedman, JR; et al. Gastroenterology. 2018; 155:815-828.


Prostaglandin E2 promotes intestinal repair through an adaptive cellular response of the epithelium. Miyoshi, H; VanDussen, KL; Malvin, NP; Ryu, SH; Wang, Y; Sonnek, NM; Lai, C; Stappenbeck, TS. The EMBO Journal. 2017; 36:5-24.


Development of an enhanced human gastrointestinal epithelial culture system to facilitate patient-based assays. VanDussen, KL; Marinshaw, JM; Shaikh, N; Miyoshi, H; Moon, C; Tarr, PI; Ciorba, MA; Stappenbeck, TS. Gut. 2015; 64:911-920.


Genetic variants synthesize to produce paneth cell phenotypes that define subtypes of Crohn's disease. VanDussen, KL; Liu, T; Li, D; Towfic, F; Modiano, N; Winter, R; Haritunians, T; Taylor, KD; Dhall, D; Targan, SR; et al. Gastroenterology. 2014; 146:200-209.


Notch signaling modulates proliferation and differentiation of intestinal crypt base columnar stem cells. VanDussen, KL; Carulli, AJ; Keeley, TM; Patel, SR; Puthoff, BJ; Magness, ST; Tran, IT; Maillard, I; Siebel, C; Kolterud, A; et al. Development (Cambridge). 2012; 139:488-497.