The Sharkey Laboratory

Dr. Keith Sharkey

Professor Department of Physiology & Pharmacology

Interim Director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute

My laboratory studies the nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract in health and disease. Our major focus is the role of nerves in intestinal inflammation. This research is applicable to the important conditions of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Our other focuses include the intrinsic primary afferent neurons and enteroendocrine cells in inflammatory bowel disease, the role of cannabinoids in the control of emesis, and the neurobiology of obesity.

Welcome to our lab and feel free to contact us if you want to learn more, or even better, join our team.


  • Neural control of the gastrointestinal tract in health and disease
  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Endocannabinoid system
  • Role of the gastrointestinal tract in the control of energy balance

For most of Dr. Sharkey’s independent career, he has focused on understanding neural control of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in health and disease. His research is notable for translational approaches to understanding GI disorders, and his laboratory has identified and characterized the effects of intestinal inflammation on neuronal and enteroendocrine physiology in the GI tract. This has enabled Dr. Sharkey’s team to understand the mechanism by which neural signalling changes in the gut impact Inflammatory Bowel Disease. They have proposed that endocannabinoids regulate secretory and motor functions in the GI tract and have shown novel actions of endocannabinoids working through the enteric (intestinal) nervous system that control the function of the GI system. They also discovered that cannabinoid CB2 receptors localized on enteric nerves can modify intestinal motility in inflammation. This provides a unique mechanism for the maintenance of gut stability that may have implications and therapeutic potential in other inflammatory states.

"Advances in science and medicine are occurring too fast and too frequently for the public to appreciate and understand. As a professional scientist and academic leader, I regard it as a responsibility and key element of service to society to share my knowledge as widely as possible in a way that the public understand and appreciate."


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