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Dr. Prem Kumar Govindappa, DVM, PhD, Receives Young Investigator Award

Sept. 8, 2023
Dr. Prem Kumar Govindappa research photo

Dr. Govindappa was recently honored with the Young Investigator Award from the American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society (ANMS). The honor recognizes groundbreaking work on a potential new treatment for a common and well-known postoperative gastrointestinal transit dysfunction.

Intestinal Problems after Surgery

Dr. Govindappa's research explored a potential new treatment for postoperative ileus (POI), an issue following abdominal, colon or rectal surgery, affecting as many as 30% of these patients, by some estimates.

Patients with POI suffer from poor intestinal motility, meaning weak or no contractions of the muscles in the intestines that push food and waste through the digestive system and out of the body.

POI causes discomfort and pain, prolongs hospital stays and can lead to further complications, including dehydration, malnutrition and infection. Unresolved, it can totally compromise the success of certain surgeries.

A Promising New Treatment for POI

Dr. Govindappa and his team sought to understand the role of a multifunctional tissue-protective cytokine called erythropoietin (EPO) in the functional recovery of the post-operative intestine. EPO is a pleiotropic hormone naturally produced by the kidneys. It stimulates the production of red blood cells in the body and is used to treat certain kinds of anemia. 

For their study, researchers used two groups of mice, wildtype and EPO receptors (EPOR) knockout mouse model: 

  • Control group mice were unchanged – EPOR were unaltered in Schwann cells in their vagus nerve, a large nerve that connects the brain to many organs and systems, including the gastrointestinal tract.  
  • Mice in the experimental group had their Schwann cell EPOR “knocked out” (switched off), making them unable to signal EPO.   

The study showed that mice with POI in the experimental group, the “EPOR knockout mice,” saw no benefit from EPO treatment for the bowel transit time. 

In contrast, mice with POI in the control group showed significant improvement when treated with EPO. Their intestines worked better and faster, moving food through their GI tract more efficiently. 

While more research is needed, the study shows that EPO – a relatively safe, simple and affordable treatment – could offer a solution for a longstanding problem affecting millions of post-surgery patients around the world. 

View Presentation Poster

About the ANMS Young Investigator Award

The American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society (ANMS) Young Investigator Award recognizes outstanding researchers in the field of neurogastroenterology and motility. 

This award celebrates the innovative contributions of emerging scientists like Dr. Govindappa, whose work holds the promise of improving our understanding and treatment of digestive disorders.