The Division has been involved in clinical research projects involving clinical trials of new therapies, as well as multicenter studies in clinical and molecular genetics. We have been involved in translational research, helping to make a bridge between the basic science researchers in molecular genetics and the patients.
Our large and varied patient population gives us the ability to conduct studies in several areas.
The laboratory of Ralph DeBerardinis, M.D., Ph.D., is interested in understanding the metabolic activities that support cell growth and proliferation in normal cells and in cancer. In order to produce daughter cells, which occur with each round of the cell cycle, cells need to double their biomass (proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids). This is a tremendous challenge requiring energy, building blocks, and the coordination of a large number of metabolic pathways.
Dr. DeBerardinis is exploring the idea that these metabolic activities are orchestrated by growth factor-stimulated signal transduction pathways, which direct cells to take up abundant nutrients and allocate them into the proper metabolic pathways. He wants to understand how signal transduction impacts metabolic fluxes during physiologic states of cell proliferation (e.g., embryogenesis, wound healing, activation of the immune system) and during pathological states (e.g., cancer).
To do this, the DeBerardinis Lab uses a combination of techniques in molecular biology, cell biology, and biochemistry, coupled with metabolic flux analysis using mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance, and animal models of metabolism and cancer. Current projects include developing imaging probes to identify abnormal metabolic activities in tumors and in children with metabolic diseases.
Dr. Angela Scheuerle’s work with the Texas Department of State Health Services Birth Defects Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch (BDES) affords excellent opportunity for both care and research at the public health level. In 2016 this became dramatically important in the state’s preparation for Zika virus. Dr. Scheuerle participated with others in the BDES to define case ascertainment parameters, expand information collected about cases with microcephaly, and provide fast-track surveillance for relevant cases. This work continues as the state establishes a baseline for microcephaly incidence in anticipation of autochthonous Zika transmission.