Wendy A. Henderson, PhD, CRNP, FAAN

Principal 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. 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; :1-13. PMID: 28059627
  2. Diallo AF, Cong X, Henderson WA, McGrath J. Management of childhood diarrhea by healthcare professionals in low income countries: An integrative review. International journal of nursing studies. 2017; 66:82-92. PMID: 28043020
  3. 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; 7:23-35. PMID: 28053879
  4. 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 : JoVE. 2016; (117). PMID: 27929459
  5. Joseph PV, Abey SK, Henderson WA. Emerging Role of Nutri-Epigenetics in Inflammation and Cancer. Oncology nursing forum. 2016; 43(6):784-788. PMID: 27768134
  6. Hardy TM, McCarthy DO, Fourie NH, Henderson WA. Anti-Müllerian Hormone Levels and Urinary Cortisol in Women With Chronic Abdominal Pain. Journal of obstetric, gynecologic, and neonatal nursing. 2016; 45(6):772-780. PMID: 27639111
  7. Cong X, Xu W, Romisher R, Poveda S, Forte S, Starkweather A, Henderson WA. Gut Microbiome and Infant Health: Brain-Gut-Microbiota Axis and Host Genetic Factors. The Yale journal of biology and medicine. 2016; 89(3):299-308. PMID: 27698614
  8. Sherwin LB, Leary E, Henderson WA. Effect of Illness Representations and Catastrophizing on Quality of Life in Adults With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services. 2016; 54(9):44-53. PMID: 27576228
  9. Cashion AK, Gill J, Hawes R, Henderson WA, Saligan L. National Institutes of Health symptom science model sheds light on patient symptoms. Nurs Outlook. 2016 Sep-Oct;64(5):499-506. PMID: 27349632
  10. Fourie NH, Wang D, Abey SK, Sherwin LB, Joseph PV, Rahim-Williams B, Ferguson EF, Henderson WA. The microbiome of the oral mucosa in irritable bowel syndrome. Gut Microbes. 2016; 7(4):286-301. PMID: 26963804
  11. Weaver K, Sherwin LB, Walitt B, Melkus GD, Henderson WA. Neuroimaging the brain-gut axis in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther. 2016 May 6;7(2):320-33. PMID: 27158548
  12. 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. PMID: 27111847
  13. Heitkemper MM, Han CJ, Jarrett ME, Gu H, Djukovic D, Shulman RJ, Raftery D, Henderson WA, Cain KC. Serum tryptophan metabolite levels during sleep in patients with and without irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Biol Res Nurs. 2016 Mar;18(2):193-8. PMID 26156003.
  14. 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. Gastroenterol Nurs. 2015 Dec 10. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 26657836
  15. Cong X, Henderson WA, Graf J, McGrath JM. Early life experience and gut microbiome: the brain-gut-microbiota signaling system. Adv Neonatal Care. 2015 Oct;15(5):314-23. PMID 26240939.
  16. Del Valle-Pinero AY, Sherwin LB, Anderson EM, Caudle RM, Henderson WA. Altered vasoactive intestinal peptides expression in irritable bowel syndrome patients and rats with trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid-induced colitis. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Jan 7;21(1):155-63. PMID: 25574088
  17. Reddy SY, Rasmussen NA, Fourie NH, Berger RS, Martino AC, Gill J, Longchamps R, Wang XM, Heitkemper MM, Henderson WA. Sleep quality, BDNF genotype and gene expression in individuals with chronic abdominal pain. BMC Med Genomics. 2014 Oct 31;7:61. PMID: 25358868
  18. Fourie N, Peace RM, Abey SA, Sherwin LB, Rahim-Williams B, Smyser PA, Wiley J, Henderson WA. Elevated circulating miR-150 and miR-342-3p in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Exp Mol Pathol. 2014 April 21; 96(3): 422-25, PMID: 24768587.
  19. Longchamps RJ, Abey SK, Martino AC, Henderson WA. Gender-associated cell-free microRNA profiles in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 May;39(9):997-8. PMID: 24689349
  20. Del Valle-Pinero AY, van Deventer HE, Fourie N, Martino AC, Remaley AT, Patel NS, Henderson WA. Gastrointestinal permeability in patients with irritable bowel syndrome assessed using a four probe permeability solution. Clin Chim Acta. 2013 Mar 15;418:97-101. PMID: 23328210
  21. 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 J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2012 Dec 15;3(6):102-8. PMID: 23516176
  22. Peace RM, Majors BL, Patel NS, Wang D, Del Valle-Pinero AY, Martino AC, Henderson WA. Stress and gene expression of individuals with chronic abdominal pain. Biol Res Nurs. 2012 Oct;14(4):405-11. PMID: 23007871
  23. Del Valle-Pinero AY, Martino AC, Taylor TJ, Majors BL, Patel NS, Heitkemper MM, Henderson WA. Pro-inflammatory chemokine C-C Motif ligand 16 (ccl-16) dysregulation in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): a pilot study. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2011 Dec;23(12):1092-7. PMID: 21951809

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