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Surgical Sciences

Cancer Biology

The UTMB Department of Surgery has a longstanding history (< 35 years) of studying malignancies in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract such as the colon, pancreas, liver, and esophagus. This Department has the longest NIH-funded training grant (T32 fellowship) in the nation that facilitates mentoring surgical residents interested in alimentary diseases. 

The ongoing research areas include studying the gastrointestinal mucosal homeostasis and repair mechanisms, analyzing microbiome composition in the esophagus and GI tract, exploring inflammatory responses in pancreatitis, chronic liver injury, and colorectal cancer, determining various GI hormones' interactions, and identifying novel molecular mechanisms related to tumor growth and metastasis.

Our laboratories utilize the most up-to-date technologies and experimental approaches. Fully equipped and recently renovated molecular biology laboratories provide the necessary facilities and equipment to perform clinically relevant studies at the molecular level. A state-of-the-art animal facility is available to achieve small animal surgery using immunocompetent and immunocompromised mouse strains. Colon, pancreatic, gastric, and endocrine tumors are regularly established from fresh operative specimens in athymic nude mice. The imaging system for the small animals involves the whole body bioluminescent and fluorescence imaging system (IVIS Spectra), and the state-of-the-art micro-CT-PET-SPECT (Inveon), high-resolution ultrasound imaging (VisualSonics Vevo 770). Some of the techniques commonly utilized include DNA sequencing, transcriptome analysis, sophisticated protein expression systems, flow cytometry, fluorescent microscopy, growth factors and cytokines detection, mitochondrial function analysis, as well as cell respiration measurements.