Research

Dr. Clifford Wai laboratory
Clifford Wai, M.D., in his laboratory, which focuses on female pelvic floor disorders and understanding the functional anatomy of the lower urinary tract and anal sphincter.

The pelvic floor is a complex, dynamic system that supports the vagina and pelvic viscera. The Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery is active in clinical trials, outcomes-based investigations, and basic research, all focused on increasing the understanding of the anatomy of the pelvic floor and identifying how to better treat pelvic floor disorders and injuries.

We participate in clinical protocols to treat a variety of pelvic floor problems. We also participate in pharmaceutical trials for new drugs to treat such disorders as urinary incontinence.

Literature suggests that aging and vaginal parity (the number of times a woman has given birth) are important risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse, where the uterus or vagina “falls” from its usual position. But the specific mechanisms that lead to organ prolapse are unknown.

Led by Drs. Ann Word and Clifford Wai, we are conducting laboratory research to define the cellular and molecular mechanisms that lead to failure of pelvic organ support and to understand the pathophysiology of pelvic floor dysfunction.

Using animal models, our faculty and fellows are studying the functional anatomy of the pelvic floor, the effects of nerve injuries on voiding dysfunction and urinary and anal incontinence, and the effects of growth factors and myogenic stem cells on wound healing of the external anal sphincter.

Increasing our understanding of how and why pelvic systems fail will ultimately allow us to offer more effective treatment to our patients. As we learn more about the factors that improve muscular healing, for instance, we may be able to speed patient recovery and prevent or alleviate some of the physical and psychological burdens associated with conditions like anal incontinence.