Anania Digestive Diseases Lab


    Department of Medicine Digestive Diseases Division Director, Frank Anania, MD, AGAF, FACP, leads a digestive diseases research team at Emory University  The Anania laboratory is focused on basic mechanisms of liver diseases and liver injury related to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

    We also have a longstanding interest in the biology of hepatic fibrosis particularly how matrix deposition occurs secondary to adipocytokines. In recent years our work has focused on the synthetic peptide hormone, glucagon-like peptide one (GLP-1). This peptide is now synthesized for clinical use in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and functions as an incretin. Our lab is investigating how GLP-1 like proteins can eliminate free fatty acid or triglyceride stores in hepatocytes. We hypothesize that the effects of GLP-1 proteins are direct with action on signaling mechanisms in hepatocytes. In another project we have been collaborating with gastrointestinal pathologists using mice that have a deficiency of the junctional adhesion molecule –A (JAM-A), that is found primarily in the distal small intestine and colon. We have developed highly effective diets that induce metabolic syndrome and fibrosis in the livers of mice fed such diets in as little as 16 weeks.

    Our data in JAM-A mice reveal that such diets induce significant molecular perturbations of the intestinal tight junctions and permit translocation of mediators that significantly up-regulate the hepatic innate immune system. These events can lead to a severe NASH phenotype. The lab continues to investigate mechanism to deactivate the hepatic stellate cell (HSC), the principle matrix producing cell following chronic sustained liver injury. 

    Lab Research Projects

    Dr. Frank Anania’s laboratory currently has two major focuses. At present, the lab studies hepatic fibrosis and examines the role of the matricellular protein periostin. Although periostin is most often associated with bone and embryologic development of the heart, their lab has demonstrated that it may be the master regulator of hepatic fibrosis by altering the liver stiffness of injured liver. Another major focus of Anania’s lab is related to the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In the near future, NASH will be the most common etiology of cirrhosis. In conjunction with their collaborators, they have developed a powerful mouse model of NASH to study a unique microbiome associated with severe liver injury. In addition, the lab has additional ongoing projects related to alcoholic liver disease, and they are continuing their investigation of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and its pharmacologic grade analogues for the treatment of NASH in humans. In these studies, they are discovering how GLP-1 proteins can reduce fatty liver disease, which could help slow disease progression, especially in type 2 diabetes mellitus. The lab has a longstanding interest in training students and postdoctoral fellows, and they have extensive collaborations with many of the investigators in the newly awarded NIH Training Grant. 

    Staff Members

    • Pradeep Kumar, PhD - Post Doctoral Fellow, Digestive Diseases
    • Khalidur (Reben) Rahman, PhD - Post Doctoral Fellow, Digestive Diseases
    • Tekla Smith - Research Specialist
    • Natalie Thorn - Research Specialist

    Contact Information

    To inquire about the research being conducted within the Anania lab please contact Pradeep Kumar, PhD –