Novelty of Research in the Francis Lab

Heather Francis, PhD, and her research team have dedicated the past several years to developing a program to better understand the paracrine role that mast cells play in chronic liver diseases. While cholangiocytes are the targets of cholangiopathies and the key cell type involved in these diseases, the paracrine action of other resident and non-resident cell types cannot be overlooked.

Mast cells are inflammatory cells that were once thought to only be important in allergic reactions; however, studies are demonstrating that mast cells play critical roles in a number of diseases including cholangiopathies. The data has demonstrated that mast cells migrate into the liver following liver damage and their number increases upon injury creating an inflammatory microenvironment.