Krishnamurthy Ramaswamy

Krishnamurthy Ramaswamy, PhD

Dr. Krishnamurthy Ramaswamy, Ph.D. was born in a small town in the southern part of India, as the son of a high school history teacher and a homemaker.  He lost his parents before the age of nine, and his oldest sister and brother-in-law took him into their family and helped him with his education.  He got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in chemistry at Loyola College, Madras, which was affiliated with the University of Madras at that time.  It was pure serendipity that he ended up as a graduate student in biochemistry in the laboratories of Prof. A.N. Radhakrishnan at Vellore Christian Medical College and Hospital.  He spent six years in his laboratory and was trained in basic biochemistry and enzymology.  His early research studies focused on amino acid transport and metabolism in the rat intestine.  He received his Ph.D. in 1968 and in the next year, he moved to Rutgers Medical School, NJ to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship with Prof. Robert K. Crane.  Dr. Crane is well known for proposing the sodium-gradient hypothesis, the basis for all oral rehydration therapies.  Dr. Crane’s group has been one of the early pioneers in the area of the Intestinal Physiology as it relates to the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.  Dr. Ramaswamy’s studies in Dr. Crane’s laboratory characterized the hydrolase-related transport system and structure-function relationships of the glucose transporter. After an outstanding postdoctoral experience, in January of 1976, he was recruited to the University of Texas Medical School at Houston as a Senior Research Scientist and rose to the rank of Assistant Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry in August 1977.  His first RO1 grant application on the effects of genetic diabetes on intestinal function was funded by NIDDK in 1977.   He moved to the University of South Carolina at Columbia, SC in 1980 where he successfully obtained funding for his research from both the VA Merit Review and NIDDK to investigate amino acid and peptide transport mechanisms in the mammalian intestine. After a 3-year faculty appointment at the University of South Carolina, he was recruited to the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he rose to the rank of a full tenured professor in 1990.  In 1991, he was recruited to the University of Illinois at Chicago as a Professor of Physiology in Medicine with tenure and the Director of Research in the section of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition of the Department of Medicine.   Since his recruitment to UIC, Dr. Ramaswamy had devoted his time and efforts to elevate the Digestive Diseases and Nutrition section to its current stature in academic gastroenterology.  He retired from UIC in 2010 and is currently a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Medicine. 

Dr. Ramaswamy has made many seminal contributions to the field of the human intestinal nutrient and ion transport processes and their regulation. His group was the first one to establish the techniques to purify plasma membrane vesicles from the organ donor intestinal mucosa as well as from the human intestinal biopsies.  These techniques were used by many other investigators to characterize the mechanisms of nutrient and ion transport processes directly in the human intestine.  His group also pioneered the concept that the data obtained from animal models cannot be simply extrapolated to understand human intestinal physiology. He demonstrated that the sodium transport mechanisms in the human intestine were not only distinct with respect to their regional expression but also in their regulation by hormones and second messengers when compared to the data derived from rodent models. In recent years, he focused his studies on the investigations of the molecular mechanisms of NaCl and short chain fatty acid absorption in the human intestine in health and disease.  He characterized the mechanisms and regulation of these transporters along the length of the human intestine at the physiological level and further extended his efforts for a better understanding of the molecular basis of these transport processes.  His group was instrumental in identifying monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1) as the transporter for short chain fatty acids in the human colon.  His group was also the pioneer in cloning the promoter regions for the sodium hydrogen exchangers NHE2, NHE3 and MCT1 genes to better understand the regulation of the expression of these transporters in the intestine.  His work on NHE3 regulation bears great physiological and pathophysiological importance as the NHE3 knockout mice exhibit diarrhea and this transporter has been shown to be involved in pathophysiology of diarrhea associated with inflammatory bowel diseases and infection by food borne pathogens.  The key importance of his studies is the direct investigation of the human intestinal nutrient and ion transport processes utilizing organ donor intestinal tissues. 

Dr. Ramaswamy received continuous extramural funding for his entire career as an independent investigator of 33 years + and furthermore, was funded both by the NIDDK and VA Merit Review Award programs.  He has been the recipient of the prestigious award of a Research Career Scientist (1991-99) and a Senior Research Career Scientist (1999-2010) in the VA research program.  He was also the recipient of the UIC Faculty of the Year award in 2009, and he will receive the Takeda Distinguished Scientist award given by the Gastroenterology section of the American Physiological Society in 2015.  He has an impressive list of ~ 110 publications in prestigious peer-reviewed journals of high impact.  His publications are highly cited by other investigators and have changed the way the human intestinal transport work is performed.   He has also contributed many authoritative chapters in Physiology and Gastroenterology textbooks.  Dr. Ramaswamy also collaborates with many investigators enriching his work as well as that of his collaborators.  His collaborations with his section colleagues such as Drs. Hecht and Dudeja was responsible for obtaining a Program Project grant to the GI section at UIC.

The most critical contribution of Dr. Ramaswamy has been his mentoring and nurturing of many young careers in the Section of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition at UIC.  Since his joining UIC in 1991, the research program of his Section has risen to the level of being one of the most-respected centers of excellence in the area of intestinal transport.  He has nurtured many young investigators in his laboratory and on the faculty of DDN, taught them grantsmanship skills and enabled them to obtain funding either from the VA or the NIH or both.  Dr. Ramaswamy has been recognized for his research and other efforts nationally and internationally and has served on NIDDK study sections, VA Merit Review Study Section, editorial board of the American Journal of Physiology and on the Research Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.  He was the chairman of the VA Merit Review Study Section between 2002 and 2003.  He has been an invited speaker at many international and national symposia and has chaired many sessions at these symposia.  Dr. Ramaswamy has attended every FASEB/ EB meeting since 1970 and is an active member of the American Physiological Society.