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APS members are doing amazing things. We asked Satish Rattan, DVM—one of our esteemed member-researchers—to tell us about his work and its implications on our understanding of life and health. He also discusses his passion for helping kids find success and develop resiliency and his support for animal research.

What do you do? Describe your work for a lay audience.

SR: I am a professor of medicine, in the division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, where I have worked since 1989 when I moved from Harvard University. The focus of my research has been on two aspects of gastrointestinal movement: the nature of inhibitory neurotransmitters, and the molecular regulation of the spontaneously tonic sphincteric smooth muscles such as the internal anal sphincter (IAS). Our in vivo and in vitro studies using appropriate animal models, human tissues, cell lines, and bioengineered IAS reconstructs from human smooth muscle cells; and employing state-of-the-art approaches have revealed that: 1) NO/VIP are major important inhibitory neurotransmitters; and 2) GPCR-coupled RhoA/Rho kinase is primarily responsible for the myogenic tone in the IAS.

Give it context. If all goes well, how will your work benefit humanity or our understanding of life?

SR: Dysfunctional IAS has been associated with several rectoanal motility disorders in humans: rectoanal incontinence, Hirschsprung’s disease, severe constipation, hemorrhoids and recurrent anal fissures. Identification of inhibitory neurotransmitters NO/VIP and the molecular control of the sphincteric smooth muscle tone via GPCR-coupled RhoA/Rho kinase have direct implications in the pathophysiology and therapeutic targeting of the associated disorders in the young and ever-increasing aging population. Our studies also have wider implications for other gastrointestinal motility disorders and smooth muscle organ systems such as urinary incontinence, cardiovascular hypertension, diabetes, obesity, oxidative stress, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, erectile dysfunction and glaucoma.

If you could do anything else… What outside of science inspires you? What would you be doing if not science? Describe your passion.

SR: I would like to share my philosophy around Meta or transcendental physiology, which goes beyond conventional physiology as it describes the mind and life vs. the physical body. This includes the hierarchy of intellect (consciousness, soul or ability), mind, brain and body—the understanding of which can help parents and teachers guide children early on in identifying their intrinsic strengths, self-motivation and highest potentials. In an otherwise “always win-win” culture, parents and teachers should educate children how to also lose gracefully, and rather than taking failures seriously use them as learning opportunities.

Additionally, I would be an advocate for the basic research using experimental animals, where necessary. This is critical in the development of new medications and procedures for human health. I would urge my colleagues to share animals and tissues, work on lines and bioengineered reconstructs when feasible, minimizing the number of used animals.

Satish Rattan, DVM, is a professor of medicine in the division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He has been an APS member since 1999.