Dr. Heuckeroth's training and history

Brief History:

Dr. Heuckeroth completed M.D. and Ph.D. studies at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in 1990. He trained in pediatrics and then in pediatric gastroenterology at St. Louis Children's Hospital. He became a faculty member at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in 1995 and was promoted to Full Professor in 2010.  While In St. Louis, Dr. Heuckeroth practiced medicine as a pediatric gastroenterologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital and ran a basic research lab. He spent about 25 % of his time on direct care of children with serious liver, bowel and pancreatic disease and 75% of his time doing research. His basic research has focused on enteric nervous system development since 1993 when the very first genetic underpinnings for human intestinal motility disorders were discovered.

In 2013, Dr. Heuckeroth moved to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania to develop new translational research programs focused on Hirschsprung disease, intestinal pseudoobstruction syndrome, gastroparesis and other intestinal motility disorders.  He currently runs a basic research lab and co-directs the Suzi and Scott Lustgarten Center for GI Motility at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  He is a Professor of Pediatrics and the Irma and Norman Braman Endowed Chair for Research in GI Motility Disorders.

Our goals are simple:  We need to find better ways to diagnose, treat, cure and prevent serious intestinal motility disorders.  We hope to take advantage of new developments in basic science to make the lives of children better.

Research Training:

Dr. Heuckeroth's undergraduate research training was in organic chemistry. He pursued organic synthesis and photochemistry in the laboratory of Dr. Patrick Mariano. His Ph.D. research was performed in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Gordon where he studied biochemistry and cell biology. This work was focused on basic mechanisms of protein acylation. His post-doctoral studies were in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Milbrandt where he studied neurobiology, molecular biology, developmental biology and genetics. His studies in Dr. Milbrandt's lab focused on the identification and characterization of a novel family of neurotrophic factors that activate the Ret transmembrane tyrosine kinase. His current research is directed at understanding the molecular mechanisms of development. He is interested in developing novel birth defect prevention strategies.


Dr. Heuckeroth was a Markey Trust Scholar and a recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. He received the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Foundation Basic Research Award from the American Gastroenterological Association and the Glaxo Wellcome Institute of Digestive Health Research Award. He also received a Clinical Scientist Award in Translational Research from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Research Focus:

Dr. Heuckeroth's laboratory work focuses on neural crest development with a special interest in development and function of the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS is a complex network of neurons and glia within the bowel wall that controls most aspects of intestinal function. The human ENS has an estimated 500 million neurons in 20 different functional classes. There are, in fact, more neurons in the bowel than in the spinal cord. Defects in ENS structure or function can cause constipation, vomiting, and growth failure. In their most severe form, ENS defects can be life threatening. Dr. Heuckeroth and his research team are working to find new ways to prevent human birth defects that affect the ENS and to treat intestinal motility disorders.