Alessio Fasano, MD, was researching cholera when the research in his lab revealed a new factor contributing to intestinal permeability: zonulin.1 Zonulin is a protein and a mechanism by which intestinal permeability is increased in the body, increasing the space between tight junctions in the intestines.2 Zonulin’s regulatory functions in the gut also affect many chronic illnesses.3-6
“When you push the limits, you spill from physiology to pathology.” – Alessio Fasano
In this interview with Patrick Hanaway, MD, Dr. Fasano describes how the path to uncovering zonulin was one of serendipity and open-mindedness. Dr. Fasano won the Linus Pauling Award from IFM in 2013.
- Wang W, Uzzau S, Goldblum SE, Fasano A. Human zonulin, a potential modulator of intestinal tight junctions. J Cell Sci. 2000;113(Pt 24):4435-4440.
- Tripathi A, Lammers KM, Goldblum S, et al. Identification of human zonulin, a physiological modulator of tight junctions, as prehaptoglobin-2. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009;106(39):16799-16804. doi:1073/pnas.0906773106.
- Sturgeon C, Fasano A. Zonulin, a regulator of epithelial and endothelial barrier functions, and its involvement in chronic inflammatory diseases. Tissue Barriers. 2016;4(4):e1251384. doi:1080/21688370.2016.1251384.
- Fasano A. Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. Physiol Rev. 2011;91(1):151-175. doi:1152/physrev.00003.2008.
- Dschietzig TB, Boschann F, Ruppert J, et al. Plasma zonulin and its association with kidney function, severity of heart failure, and metabolic inflammation. Clin Lab. 2016;62(12):2443-2447. doi:7754/Clin.Lab.2016.160512.
- Vanuytsel T, Vermeire S, Cleynen I. The role of haptoglobin and its related protein, zonulin, in inflammatory bowel disease. Tissue Barriers. 2013;1(5):e27321. doi:4161/tisb.27321.
- Malícková K, Francová I, Lukáš M, et al. Fecal zonulin is elevated in Crohn’s disease and in cigarette smokers. Pract Lab Med. 2017;9:39-44. doi:1016/j.plabm.2017.09.001.