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DIR Researcher Profile: Dr. Wendy A. Henderson

Wendy A. Henderson, PhD, CRNP, FAAN

Wendy A. HendersonPrincipal Investigator
Biobehavioral Branch
Division of Intramural Research

Building 10, Room 2-1341
10 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892


Research Topics

Digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are one of the top ten reasons for outpatient visits. Digestive disorder symptoms are many, varied and may overlap with other physical and physiological symptoms. Current treatment options include dietary modification, pharmacologic agents, and behavioral interventions. However, gaps in treatment research and clinical practice still remain—particularly for chronic GI symptoms of unknown origin. Consequently, there is a clinical need for real-time assessment of both subjective (patient-reported) and objective symptom assessment and improved characterization of GI symptom phenotypes.

The primary goal of Dr. Henderson’s research is to discover the mechanisms involved in symptom distress related to digestive disorders, specifically the biobehavioral relationships between brain-gut microbiota axis and patient symptoms. Through her research, she has demonstrated that chronic GI symptoms have an underlying subclinical inflammatory mechanism. Now identified as another layer of gene control that affects signatures and digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, microbiota and microRNAs are undergoing intensive study. Such approaches are expected to differentiate chronic GI symptoms from healthy phenotypes with combined novel biomarker profiles, which may aid in the discovery of novel targets for treatment of patients with these symptoms.


Wendy A. Henderson, PhD, CRNP, FAAN is the Chief of the Digestive Disorders Unit within NINR’s Division of Intramural Research. Her interest in symptomatology in patients with gastrointestinal and liver disorders stems from her clinical and research experience at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pediatric Gastroenterology Department, where she served as a faculty member, nurse practitioner and research coordinator. She completed a Patient Safety Fellowship, through the Jewish Healthcare Foundation. In 2007, Dr. Henderson obtained her Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh, where she was also a Clinical and Translational Science Institute Fellow. The same year, she joined NINR as a staff scientist, conducting research on the immuno-genetic mechanisms involved in symptom distress related to digestive and liver diseases. After completing two years of postdoctoral training as a Staff Scientist in the intramural program of the NINR, Dr. Henderson was appointed as an Assistant Clinical Investigator in 2009 and then joined the NINR tenure-track faculty in the NIH Division of Intramural Research in 2011.

As a primary investigator on multiple studies at the NIH, Dr. Henderson is currently focused on brain-gut microbiota axis and chronic effects of stress on intestinal health across the lifespan. She developed  the Gastrointestinal Pain Pointer (GIPP) technology to provide clinicians with a more integrated tool for GI symptom assessment—one that includes location, intensity, quality, and physiologic parameters. Through a Brain-Gut natural history study, Dr. Henderson also assesses Brain-Gut interactions in normal weight and overweight patients with chronic abdominal pain of unknown origin.

Dr. Henderson serves as a member of the Women Scientist Advisors Committee and the Intramural Program of Research on Women’s Health Steering Committee. She also serves as NINR’s NIH Liaison for the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act (BPCA) and as a pediatric gastrointestinal clinical consultant at the NIH Clinical Research Center. Among other awards, Dr. Henderson has received an NINR Director’s Award for Innovation and Leadership.

Selected Publications

  1. Robinson JM & Henderson WA. Modelling the Structure of a ceRNA-Theoretical, Bipartite microRNA-mRNA Interaction Network Regulating Intestinal Epithelial Cellular Pathways Using R Programming. BMC Research Notes, January 2018, 11(1): 19. PMID:29329594
  2. Cong X, Wu J, Vittner D, Xu Wanli, Hussain N, Galvin S, Fitzsimons M, McGrath JM, Henderson WA. The Impact of cumulative pain/stress on neurobehavioral development of preterm infants in the NICU. Early Human Development, 2017 Mar 23.
  3. Fourie NH, Wang D, Abey SK, Creekmore AL, Hong S, Martin CG, Wiley JW, Henderson WA. Structural and functional alterations in the colonic microbiome of the rat in a model of stress induced irritable bowel syndrome. Gut Microbes, 2017 Jan 2;8(1):33-45. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2016.1273999.
  4. Henderson WA, Rahim-Williams B, Kim KH, Sherwin LB, Abey SK, Martino AM, Fourie NH, Heitkemper MM, Zuccolotto AP. The Gastrointestinal Pain Pointer (GIPP): A Valid and Innovative Method to Assess Gastrointestinal Symptoms. Gastroenterology Nursing, 2017  PubMed PMID: 26657836; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4902787.
  5. Abey SK, Yuana Y, Joseph PV, Kenea ND, Fourie NH, Sherwin LB, Gonye GE, Smyser PA, Stempinski ES, Boulineaux CM, Weaver KR, Bleck CK, Henderson WA. Lysozyme association with circulating RNA, extracellular vesicles, and chronic stress. BBA Clinical, 2016 Dec 20;7:23-35. doi: 10.1016/j.bbacli.2016.12.003.
  6. Fourie NH, Peace RM, Abey SK, Sherwin LB, Wiley JW, Henderson WA. Perturbations of Circulating miRNAs in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Detected Using a Multiplexed High-throughput Gene Expression Platform. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 2016 Nov 30; 117.
  7. Fourie NH, Wang D, Abey SK, Sherwin LB, Joseph PV, Rahim-Williams B, Ferguson EF, Henderson WAThe Microbiome of the Oral Mucosa in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gut Microbes, 2016 Jul 3;7(4):286-301. PubMed PMID: 26963804; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4988452.
  8. *Cong X, Xu W, Janton S, Henderson WA, Matson A, McGrath JM, Mass K, Graf J. Gut Microbiome Developmental Patterns in Early Life of Preterm Infants: Impacts of Feeding and Gender. PLoS One, 2016 Apr 25;11(4):e0152751. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0152751. PubMed PMID: 27111847; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4844123.
  9. Del Valle-Pinero AY, Sherwin LB, Anderson EM, Caudle RM, Henderson WAAltered Vasoactive Intestinal Peptides expression in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients and Rats with Trinitrobenzene Sulfonic Acid-induced Colitis. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2015 Jan 7;21(1):155-63. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i1.155. PubMed PMID: 25574088; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4284331.
  10. Reddy SY, Rasmussen NA, Fourie NH, Berger RS, Martino AC, Gill JM, Longchamps R, Wang XM, Heitkemper MM, Henderson WASleep quality, BDNF genotype and gene expression in individuals with chronic abdominal pain. BMC Med Genomics, 2014, 31-OCT, 7 (1):61.
  11. Fourie N, Peace RM, Abey SA, Sherwin LB, Rahim-Williams B, Smyser PA, Wiley J, Henderson WAElevated circulating miR-150 and miR-342-3p in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Experimental Molecular Pathology, 2014, 21-APR, 96 (3), 422-25, PMID: 24768587.
  12. Del Valle-Pinero AY, van Deventer HE, Fourie N, Martino AC, Remaley AT, Patel NS, Henderson WAGastrointestinal permeability in patients with irritable bowel syndrome assessed using a four probe permeability solution. Clinica Chimica Acta, 2013, 14-JAN-2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.cca.2012.12.032
  13. Henderson WA, Shankar R, Taylor TJ, Del Valle-Pinero A, Kleiner DE, Kim KH & Youssef NN. Inverse relationship of interleukin-6 and mast cells in children with inflammatory and non-inflammatory abdominal pain phenotypes. World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pathophysiology, 2012,15-DEC-2012 DOI: 10.4291/wjgp.v3.i6.102. PMC3602438
  14. Henderson WA, Martino AC, Kitamura N, Kim KH, Erlen JA. Symptom Status Predicts Patient Outcomes in Persons with HIV and Comorbid Liver DiseaseAIDS Research and Treatment, 2012, 169645. 11 pages DOI:10.1155/2012/169645
  15. Del Valle-Pinero AY, Martino AC, Taylor TJ, Majors BL, Patel NS, Heitkemper MM, Henderson WAPro-Inflammatory Chemokine C-C Motif Ligand 16 (CCL-16) Dysregulation in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A Pilot Study. Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 2011; 23(12) 1092-7.

For Dr. Henderson's full bibliography, please visit PubMed.

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