Dr. Shi is currently an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, Texas.
Dr. Shi earned his M.D. from Wannan Medical College in China, and received his graduate education and post-doctoral training at the Medical College of Wisconsin. His research has been focused on the gastrointestinal smooth muscle and nervous control of digestive function since 1987, when he was a faculty member of medical physiology at Lanzhou University College of Medicine. Dr. Shi won the only fellowship award of the International Union of Physiological Sciences for '92-'93. He has authored and co-authored 25 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and served as reviewer for multiple peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Shi joined the Division as an Assistant Professor in 2002, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2008.
Several gastrointestinal conditions such as achalasia, gastric stasis, pseudo-obstruction, and mechanical obstruction demonstrate a distended lumen, and obstructive symptoms. These conditions can be classified as obstructive bowel disorders (OBDs). The motility function is impaired in OBDs, and the motility dysfunction is responsible for symptoms such as distension, bloating, vomiting, abdominal pain, and constipation encountered in these disorders. The mechanisms for the impaired motility function in OBDs are not known. Dr. Shi and his colleagues have found that mechanical stretch in OBDs induces marked expression of mechanically sensitive genes such as COX-2 in the gastrointestinal tract. These stretch-induced genes play a critical role in pathophysiology of bowel obstruction, pseudo-obstruction, achalasia, and constipation. Dr. Shi's lab has been awarded by NIH funding to investigate the mechanism of mechanical stretch-induced gene expression in the gut. They have found that blockers of this pathway have therapeutic benefits in the managements of motility dysfunction in OBDs. A further understanding of the signaling mechanism involved in stretch-induced gene expression in the gut will direct novel treatments towards these disorders.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are great digestive health challenges. Motility dysfunction and visceral hypersensitivity are responsible for symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and discomfort in these conditions. Dr. Shi has been collaborating with Dr. Sarna to characterize the molecular mechanisms of gastrointestinal motility changes and hypersensitivity in IBD and IBS. One of the most striking findings of Dr. Shi's research is that gut smooth muscle is not just a "passive" contractile tissue; it also "actively" participates in the processes of inflammation and visceral sensitization by secreting cytokines, chemokines, and other inflammatory mediators.