Jen, Al Akhrass, UPIKE students collaborate on research project

Phillip Jen, Ph.D., professor of biology at the University of Pikeville; Fadi Al Akhrass, M.D., FACP, medical director of Infectious Diseases and Infection Control at Pikeville Medical Center; and a group of UPIKE students have collaborated on a research project that examines the function of specific neurons in the human gallbladder. Their study, entitled Immunohistochemical Characteristics of Ganglionated Plexuses,” was recently accepted by the European Journal of Anatomy.

Jen and Al Akhrass teamed up soon after Jen began teaching at UPIKE. With a strong background in research, Jen developed a lab at the university to engage students in scientific learning experiences.

After Al Akhrass provided tissue samples for the study, undergraduate students, under Jen’s instruction, cut the tissue, stained and coded slides, and helped map nerve patterns to better understand gallbladder conditions. The student group included Nathan Pray, Cassie Day, Lais M. de Oliveira, Jaymie Collins and Daniel Bosse-Joseph.

Jen said the research may be helpful in the development of drugs and treatment of certain gallbladder disorders. Al Akhrass also noted that the methodology of the study is the first of its kind.

Jen and Al Akhrass have plans for multiple observation studies to investigate the physiology of specific tissues and determine the associated implications. They are already pursuing a project in which they’re studying lung tissue.

Fadi Al Akhrass, M.D., FACP, Medical Director of Infectious Diseases & Infection Control at Pikeville Medical Center

Phillip Jen, Professor of Biology at UPIKE