Research is an integral and vitally important activity in the Department of Surgery. There is a full spectrum of research activities in the department that include an array of both clinical and basic science studies. Although research time is not mandatory, the majority of our residents choose to spend one to two years in the laboratory to further hone their investigative skills in preparation for academic careers or highly competitive fellowships. In addition to our own house staff, surgeons-in-training from the United States and abroad have taken advantage of the unique research activities in the department. The residents in the laboratory are highly productive and, in fact, routinely present their work at prestigious national meetings such as the Society of University Surgeons, the American Surgical Association and the Surgical Forum. An important component to the success of this program is the fact that all of the research laboratories are directed by surgical faculty who provide clinically relevant perspectives to the research as well as valuable mentorship to the surgical house staff. The Division of General Surgery offers unique opportunities to investigate various aspects of gut physiology and endocrinology, surgical oncology, burns and trauma, and transplantation. The research laboratories and the studies that are currently being performed follow.
Surgical GI Physiology and Endocrinology Laboratory
Facilities are available for preparation of large- and small-animal surgery, development of in vitro models, and cell culture. Some of the ongoing studies include: regulation of gut gene hormone expression, mechanisms of intestinal mucosal homeostasis, pancreatic repair after pancreatitis, the effect of various gut hormones on growth of the normal GI tract during early development, aging and after injury, the interaction of GI and calcium regulating hormones, and mechanisms of apoptosis in the GI tract.
Surgical Oncology Laboratory
Facilities are available for tissue culture of a large repertoire of human and animal GI tumors. In addition, a nude mouse facility is available, with a large number of colon, pancreatic, gastric, and endocrine tumors that have been established from fresh operative specimens. Some of the ongoing studies include the effect of gut hormones on tumor growth, detection and quantification of hormone receptors, tumor immunology, gene therapy approaches utilizing antisense technology, and signal transduction mechanisms involved in hormone-mediated cancer growth.
Facilities and equipment are available for receptor analysis and examination of specific intracellular signal transduction pathways. Some of the ongoing studies include: detection and quantification of hormone receptors on human and animal tumors and normal tissues, production of monoclonal antibodies to hormone receptors and polyclonal antibodies to complementary peptides and receptors, intracellular signal transduction mechanisms of action of peptide hormones, and peptide receptor characterization. In addition, the laboratory is equipped with a state-of-the-art quantitative fluorescence imaging system for the measurement of intracellular calcium and a microinjection apparatus that can deliver various reagents into single cells. This equipment, which is present in only a limited number of laboratories across the country, has broadened the scope and overall capabilities of our laboratory.
Molecular Biology Laboratory
A fully equipped and recently renovated molecular biology laboratory provides the necessary facilities and equipment to perform clinically relevant studies at the molecular level. Some of the ongoing studies include: molecular analysis of intracellular mechanisms that regulate normal and malignant gut growth, cellular factors involved in transcriptional regulation, identification of mutations in various oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in GI cancers, and early molecular changes that occur in the gut and liver after systemic injury. Some of the techniques commonly utilized include: Northern, Southern and Western blots, RNase protection, gel mobility shift assays, DNase I footprinting, transient and stable transfections, in situ hybridization, gene cloning, and immunoprecipitation. In addition, we are using gene array techniques to assess gene expression patterns in normal tissues and cancers.
Pediatric Surgical Laboratory
Facilities are available for animal and cellular studies. Ongoing studies include: relationships between GI hormones and intestinal function, the immunologic development of the gut, biochemical markers for intestinal ischemia in the neonate, peritonitis and shock in neonatal animals, and tracheal reconstruction in experimental animals.
Facilities are available for large- and small-animal transplantation as well as tissue culture. Some of the ongoing studies include: immune mechanisms of rejection, ultraviolet radiation of donor tissue and its effect on stimulator cells, differentiation of acute rejection from cyclosporine toxicity, and mechanisms for deleting passenger leukocytes.
Burn and Metabolism Laboratories at the Shriners Hospitals
The facilities and equipment are available for large- and small-animal research and tissue culture. In addition, a fully-equipped metabolism laboratory is available for clinical and basic research. Some of the ongoing studies include: tissue culture growth of skin, mechanisms of wound healing, chemical mediators of the systemic response to burn injury, mechanisms of immune deficiency after injury, pathophysiology of inhalation injury, and stable isotope tracer studies of human metabolism and other stresses.