As a pediatric surgeon scientist, Dr. Helmrath has established a large multidisciplinary team dedicated to clinical, translational, and basic science research focused on human diseases. Clinically he is dedicated to patients with intestinal diseases and obesity. In his laboratory he focuses on characterizing intestinal stem cells during intestinal adaptation and developing intestinal regenerative strategies. By combining his current roles as Surgical Director of Research, Director for the Center for Bariatric Research and Innovation, Surgical Director of the Intestinal Rehabilitation Program, and Associate Director of Clinical Translation for CuSTOM, his strong basic science research background further allows him to translate human GI conditions to the laboratory to develop highly innovative approaches to treat intestinal diseases.
InstructorMax earned his PhD in biology at the University of Nantes (France) in January 2012. While there he focused on the role of enteric glial cells in the control of intestinal epithelial cells using microarrays and functional analysis. His specific project aimed to characterize the role of enteric glial cells in the control of intestinal epithelial barrier functions and also enteric neuronal survival. Combining pharmacological, molecular biology and biochemical tools, he identified the role of 15dPGJ2 produced by EGC on intestinal epithelial cells proliferation and the mechanisms involved. In February 2012, he joined the Helmrath Lab to develop intestinal stem cell culture techniques. He has developed FACS sorting methods as wells as genomic and epigenomic approaches. His focus is the study of intestinal stem cell pattern throughout the small intestine using human tissue sample and pluripotent stem cells.
Senior Research Assistant
Jen obtained her BS from Towson University in 1988. Upon graduation, she accepted a position at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Oncology Center as a senior laboratory technician researching the role of latency following HIV infection. She moved to Cincinnati and joined the lab of Dr. Mitchell Cohen and began studying enterotoxins, their receptors and the resulting secretory diarrhea. Her research also included several clinical trials including vaccine studies for cholera, typhoid and entertoxigenic e.coli infections. In 2010, Jen started as a lab manager for Dr. Michael Helmrath. Jen was responsible for establishing the lab including developing and implementing protocols, lab administration, personnel training, coordinating transgenic animal colonies and animal surgical procedures. She earned her MS from George Washington University in 2011 in clinical research administration. She has implemented a lab specific biobank to store and track clinical specimen. In addition to her lab management responsibilities, Jen is transitioning into a more active role as a clinical research professional.
Research Assistant IV
Nambi earned his PhD in life sciences from the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad India in 1997. His graduate work was on understanding the role of protein tyrosine phosphatase signaling in cell division and disease. He then moved to Washington University in St. Louis and worked briefly on the role of Colony Stimulating Factor signaling in breast cancer metastasis. In 1998, Nambi moved to University of Minnesota where he trained under Dr. Wylie and Dr. Heasman on using Xenopus as a model system to study the role of tyrosine phosphatases in early embryonic development. He moved to Cincinnati Children’s in the year 2000, along with Dr. Wylie’s lab and has continued to work here since then. He joined Dr. Helmrath’s lab as a research assistant in March 2011. Nambi mainly works on the culturing of murine and human intestinal enteroids and organoids. He has been an integral part of the lab in providing training and assistance to the surgical residents, clinical and research fellows in the various techniques performed in the lab. His area of expertise is in cell signaling, biochemistry, and molecular biology.
Research Assistant III
Nicole earned her BA in psychobiology from Hiram College in 1995. Upon graduation, she accepted a position at Kent State University managing a research facility for the Department of Psychology. In 1998, Nicole joined the Woychik Lab at Case Western Reserve University, where she spent the next sixteen years studying polycystic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis and airway diseases in animal models. At CWRU Nicole specialized in techniques such as nasal potential difference assay, isolating and culturing bone marrow derived macrophages, and creating F1 Chimera mouse lines. In 2015, Nicole moved to Cincinnati and joined Dr. Helmrath’s lab. Currently she contributes to the lab by providing histology and cell culture support.
Alex Cortez a native of Northeast Ohio and graduated from Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI) with a BA in Spanish and a minor in biochemistry. He then completed his MD at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He remained there after graduation and is currently a general surgery resident. He is interested in pediatric and transplant surgery and plans to pursue a career in academic medicine where he can engage in research, teaching and patient care. As a research fellow in the Helmrath Lab, Alex is interested in the translational aspects of stem cell based therapies for clinical disease. His focus is on how host size and luminal contents affect the growth, maturation and function of human intestinal organoids (HIO). This involves translating existing in vivo animal models to large animals, allowing for improved surgical manipulation and modeling. In doing so, the team will have the ability to better study human intestinal physiology, as well as develop patient-specific HIOs that can be used to understand and treat clinical disease.
AJ is a native of the Akron/Cleveland area in Northeast Ohio. He earned his BA in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia University in 2015. While there, he studied cartilage tissue engineering in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Lab, with a focus on maintaining cartilage explants at tissue homeostasis. He currently is pursuing an MD/PhD through the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s MSTP program and the Molecular and Developmental Biology PhD program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. His work in the lab focuses on understanding how the mesenchyme and epithelium in Human Intestinal Organoids (HIOs) interact and promote development of each other following transplantation of the HIOs into the mouse kidney capsule.
Carine received her Ph.D in Biology and Immunology from the University of Montpellier in France in 2009. During that time, she developed an innovative cell-based therapy using both properties of the mesenchymal stem cells, inhibition of the inflammation and repair of the cartilage. In April 2010, she moved to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to do her postdoctoral training in the Division of Allergy and Immunology. She worked on the molecular mechanism of eosinophil activation as well as eosinophil development. By combining epigenetic and transcriptomic analysis, she identified a repertoire of transcription factors expressed during eosinophil development. In April 2017, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Helmrath to engineer a complex human intestinal tissue with an immune system.
Gillian received her BS in 2010 from The University of Texas at Dallas and her MD in 2015 from The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Gillian joined the Helmrath lab in 2017 as a research resident and is currently interested in further delineating the interactions between the microbiome and bile acid metabolism that are occurring in the context of intestinal adaptation. Current clinical projects includes examining the long term effects of gastroschisis and exploring the outcomes of bariatric surgery in developmentally delayed patients.
Justine earned her PhD in biology at the University of Rennes (France) in June 2015. Her graduate work focused on understanding how nutrition, especially dietary lipids, can influence inflammatory processes in chronic diseases including obesity. Combining biochemical, molecular biology and metabolic tools, she identified the role of the dietary omega 6 lipid, linoleic acid, on adipose tissue, liver physiology and metabolism. In January 2016, she joined the Helmrath Lab to characterize the metabolic changes occurring during intestinal adaptation related to microbiota alterations and to further develop personal nutritional strategies. She has developed multidisciplinary approaches in the lab including metabolomics and metagenomics analyses.
Simon earned his PhD in biology at the University of Nantes (France) in November 2017. His PhD project focused on the role of enteric glial cells in colorectal cancer. His specific project aimed to characterize the role of enteric glial cells in the control of cancer stem cell functions and associated carcinogenesis processes. Using in vitro and in vivo approaches, he demonstrated that tumor cells activate EGC to acquire a pro-tumorigenic phenotype which in turn stimulates cancer stem cells tumorigenicity and chemoresistance. He joined the Helmrath lab in January 2018 to combine his knowledge of the enteric nervous system and carcinogenesis processes with the lab expertise on the biology of intestinal stem cells, gut development and intestinal failure.
Michael Helmrath, MD, MS
Division of Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery
3333 Burnet Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45229
3333 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229-3026
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