Wendy A. Henderson, Ph.D., M.S.N., C.R.N.P.


Biobehavioral Branch


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 inflammation 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, 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 miRNA targets for treatment of patients with these symptoms.


Wendy A. Henderson, Ph.D., M.S.N., C.R.N.P. is the Chief of the Biobehavioral 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. 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.

As a primary investigator on multiple studies at the NIH, Dr. Henderson is currently focused on the Gastrointestinal Pain Pointer (GIPP) technology, which she developed to provide clinicians with a more integrated tool for pain 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.

Selected Publications

  1. Henderson WA, Rahim-Williams B, Kim KH, Sherwin LB, Abey SK, Martino AC, Fourie NH, Heitkemper MM, Zuccolotto AP. The Gastrointestinal Pain Pointer: A Valid and Innovative Method to Assess Gastrointestinal Symptoms. Gastroenterol Nurs. 2015.

  2. Fourie NH, Wang D, Abey SK, Sherwin LB, Joseph PV, Rahim-Williams B, Ferguson EG, Henderson WA. The microbiome of the oral mucosa in irritable bowel syndrome. Gut Microbes. 2016;7(4):286-301.

  3. Fourie NH, Peace RM, Abey SK, Sherwin LB, Rahim-Williams B, Smyser PA, Wiley JW, Henderson WA. Elevated circulating miR-150 and miR-342-3p in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Exp Mol Pathol. 2014;96(3):422-5.

  4. 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 Clin. 2017;7:23-35.

  5. Del Valle-Pinero AY, Van Deventer HE, Fourie NH, Martino AC, Patel NS, Remaley AT, Henderson WA. Gastrointestinal permeability in patients with irritable bowel syndrome assessed using a four probe permeability solution. Clin Chim Acta. 2013;418:97-101.

This page was last updated on August 31st, 2017