Skip to main content

Intestinal Regenerative Medicine

Intestinal Regenerative Medicine

Lab Contact: 919.513.6919


Liara Gonzalez, an assistant professor of gastroenterology and equine surgery at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, was the first to develop a large animal porcine model to study intestinal stem cells and was the first to identify these cells in horses.

She and her team are also the first to grow and expand intestinal stem cells into 3-D complex structures from tissues derived from both pigs and horses.

Ongoing Research

Intestinal disease is severely debilitating to both veterinary and human patients. In horses, colic is the leading known cause of death. Additionally, gastrointestinal diseases affect approximately 60 to 70 million Americans annually. One of the most dangerous forms of intestinal disease that afflicts both humans and animals is intestinal ischemia and reperfusion injury, which result in a lack of blood flow to the intestine.

In the face of no new therapies for treatment of intestinal ischemia in decades, intestinal stem cells have been heralded as the greatest potential therapeutic because of their tremendous capacity for proliferation and mucosal repair. Intensive study is underway to understand and harness the therapeutic potential of intestinal stem cells. NC State is leading the way in the field of large animal intestinal stem cells and novel stem cell-driven structures called enteroids, or “mini guts.”

“Working with horses suffering from colic and their loving and dedicated owners has been the driving force to improve the medicine we have to offer. The reality is that there has been a failure to develop new, innovative therapies despite the fact that colic is the leading cause of death from disease in horses. 

The potential to make a difference excites me. ” Dr. Liara Gonzalez


Dr. Liara Gonzalez, DVM, PhD, DACVS is a veterinarian, specialty trained in large animal surgery, with a clinical and research focus on intestinal disease. Dr. Gonzalez’ research has aimed to develop and utilize large animal models to translate lab bench findings into clinically relevant therapeutic interventions that benefit both human and veterinary patients.

She is particularly interested in identifying improved means to determine tissue viability following severe intestinal injury as well as studying the role of intestinal stem cells in modulating mucosal barrier repair following ischemic damage. Much of her research, to date, has developed the techniques necessary to utilize porcine tissue for the study of intestinal stem cells that includes porcine crypt isolation and 3D culture. Dr. Gonzalez hopes to apply her knowledge and expertise in advanced laboratory techniques to solve clinically significant problems and further elucidate therapeutic targets to ultimately improve patient survival. Outside of work, Dr. Gonzalez enjoys, trail running, ride and tie (, CrossFit, and travel.


John Freund: John Freund joined the Gonzalez lab in June of 2015. He studied Molecular Biology at Westminster College before post graduate education in Forensic science at at Duquesne University and in Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. John brings 20 years of hands-on laboratory experience to the Gonzalez lab . Before moving to Raleigh, John was a lab manager at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Pittsburgh and at West Virginia University. John is a native of Pittsburgh, PA and a life long Steelers fan. He and his wife Janice enjoy their rescue dog, riding motorcycles, fishing and boating.

Graduate Students

  • Amy Stieler Stewart, DVM, Diplomate of the American College of Internal Medicine, PhD Candidate 2019 Dr. Amy Stieler Stewart is a graduate student obtaining her PhD under the instruction of Dr. Liara Gonzalez. Amy is originally from Merritt Island, Florida and attended the University of Florida for her undergraduate and veterinary degrees (Go Gators!!). She then completed a one-year rotating internship in Large Animal Medicine and Surgery at the University of Georgia. She returned to the University of Florida in 2012, completed a three-year residency in Large Animal Medicine and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2015. Following completion of her PhD, she hopes to obtain a faculty position at a Veterinary Teaching Hospital continuing her passion for practicing high-quality medicine, educating veterinary students and conducting research to benefit her patients and society. In her free time, Amy enjoys distance running, cross-training at the gym, sports and traveling with her husband Shawn.
  • Cecilia Kucera, DVM, PhD Candidate. Dr. Cecilia Kucera is a graduate student who joined the Gonzalez lab in August, 2018, after completing her DVM degree from NCSU CVM. Cecilia grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and went to Wake Forest University for her B.S. degree in Biology. Upon completion of her PhD, she hopes to continue working as faculty at a veterinary teaching hospital to not only continue her career as a researcher, but to also lead experiential teaching opportunities with veterinary students. When not in the laboratory, Cecilia enjoys riding her horse, playing violin, and exploring the outdoors and craft breweries with her fiancé, George, and two dogs.

Veterinary Students

  • Madison Voigt: Madison is a veterinary student at North Carolina State University class of 2019. Madi is from Brighton, Michigan and attended the University of Georgia. She competed as a division 1 athlete on the equestrian team during her undergraduate tenure and graduated with a major in biological science. Madi joined the Gonzalez lab as an undergraduate student and returned for the summer following her first year of veterinary school to participate in the Merial Veterinary Scholars program, where she researched porcine intestinal stem cells utilizing surface markers and flow cytometry. Madi enjoys nurturing enteroids and helping them grow to their full potential, and has increasing interests in flow cytometry and fluorescence activated cell sorting. In her free time she enjoys riding horses, running, and spending time with family.


Justin Davidson: I am a junior majoring in Biology with a concentration in Integrative Physiology and Neurobiology at NC State. I work on various roles in the lab as well as analyzing and imaging Crypt Cells. Outside of the lab, I enjoy exercising and playing sports especially basketball, listening and playing music, as well as playing videogames. I am a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. as well as an NC State University Ambassador. In the future I hope to attend medical school to study to become a surgeon and find new ways to combine research and medicine.


  • (2018) Advanced three-dimensional culture of equine intestinal epithelial stem cells.Stewart AS1, Freund JM1, Gonzalez LM1. | Equine Vet J.  2018 Mar;50(2):241-248. doi: 10.1111/evj.12734. 
  • (2018) Intestinal Stem Cell Isolation and Culture in a Porcine Model of Segmental Small Intestinal Ischemia.Stieler Stewart A1, Freund JM1, Blikslager AT2, Gonzalez LM3. | J Vis Exp.  2018 May 18;(135).
  • (2018) Protein biomarker of cell proliferation determines survival to discharge in cases of equine large colon volvulus.Kucera CR1, Stranahan LW1, Hughes F2, Blikslager AT1, Gonzalez LM1. | Equine Vet J.  2018 Jul;50(4):452-456.
  • (2017) Alterations in Intestinal Permeability: The Role of the “Leaky Gut” in Health and DiseaseAmy Stieler Stewart, Shannon Pratt-Phillips, Liara M. Gonzalez | JEVS. May 2017, Volume 52, Pages 10–22
  • (2017) Ductular and proliferative response of esophageal submucosal glands in a porcine model of esophageal injury and repair.Krüger L, Gonzalez LM, Pridgen TA, McCall SJ, von Furstenberg RJ, Harnden I, Carnighan GE, Cox AM, Blikslager AT, Garman KS. | Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2017 Sep 1;313(3):G180-G191
  • (2016) Large Animal Models: The Key to Translational Discovery in Digestive Disease Research.Ziegler A, Gonzalez LM, Blikslager AT. | Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016 Nov;2(6):716-724.
  • (2016) Book Chapter: Intestinal Stem Cells.Gonzalez LM. | In: Blikslager AT, White NA, Moore JN, Mair TS, Eds., Equine Acute Abdomen, 3rd Edition. Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ, 2016
  • (2016) Book Chapter: Intestinal Viability.Gonzalez LM. | In: Blikslager AT, White NA, Moore JN, Mair TS, Eds., Equine Acute Abdomen, 3rd Edition. Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ, 2016
  • (2016) An evaluation of the psychometric properties of an advising survey for medical and professional program students.Royal KD, Gonzalez LM. | Journal of Educational Developmental Psychology 2016;6(1):195-203.
  • (2015) The mother of a gut cell: Intestinal epithelial stem cells.Gonzalez LM, | Equine Vet Educ. Invited editorial 2015;27(11)559-560.
  • (2015) Porcine models of digestive disease: the future of large animal translational research.Gonzalez LM, Moeser AJ, Blikslager AT. | Translational Research 2015;166(1)12-27. PMID:25655839. Epub 2015 Jan 13.
  • (2015) Characterization of Discrete Equine Intestinal Epithelial Cell Lineages.Gonzalez LM, Kinnin LS, Blikslager AT. | Am J Vet Res 2015;76(4)358-66. PMID:25815577
  • (2015) Animal models of ischemia-reperfusion induced intestinal injury: progress and promise for translational research.Gonzalez LM, Moeser AJ, Blikslager AT. | Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 2015;308(2)G63-75. PMID:25414098. Epub 2014 Nov 20.
  • (2015) Operative Factors Associated with Short-term Outcome in Horses with Large Colon Volvulus: 47 cases from 2006 to 2013.Gonzalez LM, Fogle CF, Baker WT, Hughes FE, Law JM, Motsinger-Reif AA, Blikslager AT. | Equine Vet J 2015;47(3)279-84. PMID:24735170. Epub 2014 May 29.
  • (2013) Cell lineage identification and stem cell culture in a porcine model for the study of intestinal epithelial regeneration.Gonzalez LM, Williamson I, Piedrahita JA, Blikslager AT, Magness ST. | PLoS ONE 2013;8(6):e66465. PMID:23840480. Print 2013.
  • (2010) Magnetic resonance imaging of metacarpo(tarso) phalangeal region.Gonzalez LM, Schramme MC, Redding WR, Robertson ID, Thrall DE. | Vet Radiol Ultrasound 2010;51:404-414. PMID:20806872.