The Department of Surgery is currently undertaking a number of research endeavors in an effort to forward our knowledge of the basic sciences and improve patient care. Our physicians are dedicated to achieving quality results while undertaking some of the biggest questions facing the medical and scientific community. The projects we are involved in span our numerous divisions, and include collaborations within the University and with academics at other institutions. Click on one of our research areas below to learn more:
Participants will have many research, career development and patient-based clinical opportunities
The diabetes research program at UVA is a ten-week summer internship for undergraduates with a focus on diabetes research. The program is sponsored by NIH NIDDK R25 training program, Department of Surgery, Biomedical Engineering, and Echols Scholar Program. Students will be compensated a $3000 stipend over the course of the ten-week program.
The Surgical Therapeutic Advancement Center (STAC) at the University of Virginia (UVA) is an academic research center dedicated to the development of innovations in the field of surgery in order to improve the clinical care of patients. Our collaborators include some 30 UVA faculty members whose efforts are coordinated through one central office under the direction of Dr. William D. Spotnitz.
Our basic scientific research facility is headed by two principle investigators. Ailawadi Lab began in 2007 as the Aortic Aneurysm Research Program in the former Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery Research Lab of University of Virginia. Then, in September of 2010, Dr. Gilbert R. Upchurch Jr. moved from Michigan to Virginia. It is one of the few labs in the nation that is dedicated solely to the basic scientific research of aortic aneurysm.
The Thoracic Immunology Lab at the University of Virginia is studying various aspects of pulmonary immune response, with respect to lung cancer and organ transplantation. We aim to better understand the cytotoxic and regulatory roles of CD8 T cells in lung transplant and tumor models. The interactions of other immune cells with CD8 T cells are also part of the research focus of the lab.
The Trauma Service and the UVA Trauma Center have an intense and varied clinical research program.
Presentations from the Trauma Service and the UVA TraumaCenter have won the Virginia Chapter of the American College of Surgeons Trauma Resident Paper competition for the last three consecutive years.
The main focus of our laboratory is the identification of human tumor antigens recognized by human cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL), in the elucidating the nature of the host: tumor relationship and in hopes of creating novel immunologic treatments for human cancer. We use human tumor cells and autologous lymphocytes to generate tumor specific CTL, HLA-type the patient’s cells, seek evidence of shared tumor antigens, and extract MHC-associated peptides. Immunologically active peptides are identified and sequenced using tandem mass spectrometry. At present, most of our energies are devoted to identification of peptide epitopes for CTL specific for human melanoma expressing HLA-A2.1. We have recently identified one peptide epitope for HLA-A2-restricted melanoma-specific CTL, and we poised to identify others. We are preparing tumor vaccines in the laboratory, using melanoma cell lines as well as synthetic peptides, and a major effort in the lab will be to evaluate patient immune responses to novel tumor vaccines. The work is being expanded to include identification of peptide epitopes for melanoma presented on HLA-A3 and on other MHC molecules, as well as the identification of peptide epitopes for CTL specific for solid tumors other than melanoma. We have human CTL lines specific for melanoma and restricted HLA-A3 and other CTLl ines specific for squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. We have preliminary data on CTL against colon, ovarian, and breast cancers. The process of peptide extraction and identification is well underway for the characterization of epitopes from the HLA-A3(+) melanomas and from lung cancer.
For over 50 years the has been saving the lives of Virginian’s and beyond through organ transplantation.
Lung Transplant Research Program
The Lung Transplant Research Program in the Department of Surgery, University of Virginia is a diverse team of clinicians and researchers dedicated to helping lung transplant recipients through the advancement of lung transplant research and the research training of surgery Residents, PostDocs, and Students. Our research labs are headed by four Principle Investigators who utilize in vivo and in vitro models to study clinically relevant issues in lung transplantation with a focus on ischemia-reperfusion injury, primary graft dysfunction, lung preservation, ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) and rejection.
The Genomics Transplant Translational Core’s research is aimed at improving outcomes and quality of life for patients. For example, we are developing biomarkers capable of providing earlier diagnoses for liver, kidney, and pancreas transplant patients, which will allow treatments to be given sooner and more likely to be successful.
At the Cell Processing Core, cells called islets are taken from a pancreas and transplanted into the liver of a patient with chronic pancreatitis or diabetes. Islets help the patient’s body begin to regulate blood glucose in a more normal way and prevent hypoglycemia and hypoglycemia unawareness.
There is a strong tradition of research among the residents at the University of Virginia. All residents are required to participate in at least one month of dedicated research time. Some residents may elect to spend a single month during the third clinical year. Most residents spend one to three years working in a basic or clinical science laboratory. Some even seize the opportunity to receive a Masters in Public Health or Clinical Sciences during this time.
Resident research can only thrive with appropriate mentorship. The faculty of the University of Virginia Department of Surgery are committed to research in their own careers as well as to helping residents develop as surgeon-scientists.
Categorical residents are required to submit a research proposal in the winter and present their topic during Resident Research Day in April as a poster or an oral presentation. Pre-existing work is acceptable, but novel research created for research day also is encouraged. This frequently results in work being presented and published in other forums including presentations at local, regional, or national meetings and publication in peer reviewed journals.