NIH funds Basson’s study of treatment to alleviate effects from starvation or intestinal surgery

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—When children or adults either undergo prolonged fasting or have much of their small intestine removed because of disease, they are often initially unable to eat enough to survive. Without sufficient intestinal adaptation, they may be condemned to permanent intravenous feedings, with a substantial impact on quality and length of life, or require small bowel transplantation, which has its own complications.

“Current medical treatment for this condition has limited efficacy,” said Marc D. Basson, MD, PhD, MBA, FACS , the associate dean for medicine and professor of surgery and of biomedical sciences at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “We have identified a novel protein that turns on the function of the cells that line the small intestine and may offer a new approach to the management of this condition.”

The National Institutes of Health has granted over $860,000 to Basson to continue research he initiated at Michigan State University in 2012. Basson’s unique approach is called Schlafen mediation of intestinal epithelial differentiation.

“We hope to trace the pathway that causes the small intestinal epithelial lining cells to differentiate,” Basson said, “The pathway may offer new targets that can be used to develop new therapies to help children and adults who have what is known as short bowel syndrome, which usually results from surgical removal of a large portion of the small intestine.”

Other researchers from the UND SMHS working with Basson in his study are Lakshmi Chaturvedi, PhD, research associate professor in the Departments of Surgery, Biomedical Sciences and Pathology; Emilie DeKrey, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Surgery; and Luis Garcia, MD, Sanford Health System, and clinical associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the SMHS. In addition, Basson will continue the research partnership he forged with Leslie Kuhn, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Michigan State University.

“We hope this research leads to pharmacologic interventions targeted at the mechanisms that we are tracing,” he said. “And we will study how treating this pathway may be adapted to weight-loss surgery to make such surgery more effective.”

Also of note, Basson was named editor in chief this month of the Journal of Investigative Surgery , which publishes peer-reviewed scientific articles for the advancement of surgery.