Keith Sharkey, PhD

Professor; Deputy Director;
Hotchkiss Brain Institute;
University of Calgary

  • 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. Working with NeuroTrition provides me a way to advance the impact of research in a way that the public understand and appreciate."

— Keith Sharkey, PHD

American Gastroenterological Association

American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society

American Physiological Society

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada, Professional Member

International Cannabinoid Research Society

  1. Van Sickle, M.D., Duncan, M., Kingsley, P.J., Mouihate, A., Urbani, P., Mackie, K., Stella, N., Makriyannis, A., Piomelli, D., Davison, J.S., Marnett, L.J., Di Marzo, V., Pittman, Q.J., Patel, K.D. and Sharkey, K.A. (2005). Identification and functional characterization of cannabinoid (CB)2 receptors in the brainstem. Science, 310(5746), 329-332.
  2. Gulbransen, B.D. and Sharkey, K.A. (2009). Purinergic neuron-to-glia signaling in the enteric nervous system. Gastroenterology, 136(4), 1349-1358.
  3. Gulbransen, B.D., Bashashati, M., Hirota, S.A., Gui, X., Roberts, J.A., MacDonald, J.A., Muruve, D.A., McKay, D.M., Beck, P.L., Mawe, G.M., Thompson, R.J. and Sharkey, K.A. (2012). Activation of neuronal P2X7 receptor-pannexin-1 mediates death of enteric neurons during colitis. Nature Medicine, 18(4), 600-604.
  4. Hons, I.M., Storr, M.A., Mackie, K., Lutz, B., Pittman, Q.J., Mawe, G.M. and Sharkey, K.A. (2012). Plasticity of mouse enteric synapses mediated through endocannabinoid and purinergic signaling. Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 24(3), e113-e124.
  5. Bashashati, M., Nasser, Y., Keenan, C.M., Ho, W., Piscitelli, F., Nalli, M., Mackie, K., Storr, M.A., Di Marzo, V. and Sharkey, K.A. (2015). Inhibiting endocannabinoid biosynthesis: a novel approach for the treatment of constipation. British Journal of Pharmacology,172(12), 3099-3111.