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Kari Nejak-Bowen

Title of talk: "Beta-catenin Modulation in Cholestatic Liver Disease"

Summary of talk: Chronic cholestasis results from bile secretory defects or impairment of bile flow, and there are few effective medical therapies available. The Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway has a well-described role in liver physiology and pathology, and its modulation also alters the progression of cholestasis. We have recently identified a role for beta-catenin in regulating bile acid metabolism during cholestasis. We have also demonstrated the role of beta-catenin in transdifferentiation of hepatocytes to cholangiocytes during chronic biliary injury. We are now utilizing novel therapeutic modalities to either inhibit beta-catenin or enhance its activation in various models of intrahepatic cholestasis in order to potentially alleviate the complications of cholangiopathies.

Short biosketch: Kari Nejak-Bowen is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Experimental Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine. She has published several first-author manuscripts, contributed other scholarly works (reviews and book chapters) in the area of her research, and delivered numerous presentations at national and international meetings. She is an active member of the American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP) and AASLD. She is a member of the education committee for ASIP and co-director of the Liver Scientific Interest Group. Her major research interests are in understanding the cellular and molecular basis of liver injury, regeneration, and cholestatic liver disease. For Kari's dissertation research, she studied the role of β-catenin in liver regeneration and cell survival. She was a postdoctoral fellow with both Dr. George Michalopoulos, where she examined the role of hepatocyte growth factor and stellate cells in regeneration, and Dr. Satdarshan Monga, where she studied NF-κB and β-catenin regulation of cyclin-D1. Currently, Kari investigates the role of β-catenin in cholestasis. Her recent findings demonstrate a key role of β-catenin signaling in bile acid metabolism and transdifferentiation of hepatocytes to cholangiocytes. Studies are ongoing to elucidate the significance of β-catenin modulation for therapeutics in various models of intrahepatic cholestasis.