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Research Opportunities

Residents are encouraged to participate in new or ongoing research projects for publication or presentation each year. Each resident is fully funded to attend at least one national conference in addition to any conference at which he/she is invited to speak. Talk to our faculty or residents to get an idea of current projects within the department as well as innovations in the Laboratory of Tissue Repair.


The Research Lab is part of the Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, interacting with several of the Division's faculty. This laboratory has been in existence for more than thirty years and has received continual NIH funding since its inception. The Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory has an established reputation for making significant contributions in the area of normal and pathologic wound repair. Members of the laboratory actively collaborate with other members of the Department of Surgery who are studying similar processes.

Dorne Yager, PhD — Plastic & Reconstructive Research Faculty


The mission of the Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory is to provide a setting for the investigation of the underlying mechanisms involved in tissue injury and more importantly, the process of tissue repair.

Priorities of the Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory include:

  • providing an intense fertile setting that is conducive to the training of young physician scientist and,

  • to focus on productive research projects that can be quickly translated from the bench to the bedside.


Research interests in the Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory fall into three major areas:

One focus is to investigate the role of an over-exuberant neutrophil response in the pathophysiology of chronic wounds. Neutrophils are a source of large amounts of proteases and oxidative products that provide protection from invading pathogens. However, when present in excessive amounts, these same proteases and oxidants can also cause tissue damage. This laboratory has demonstrated that chronic non-healing wounds contain elevated levels of neutrophil proteases (e.g., collagenase-2 and elastase) and diminished levels of endogenous inhibitors of these proteases. These observations have led to a collaborative effort with the Southern Regional Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to design new types of dressings with the goal of controlling the proteolytic and oxidative environment of chronic wounds. Several questions remain to be answered. Can the numbers of neutrophils that enter a would site be controlled? Can the activity of neutrophils at a wound site be regulated? Can the activity of neutrophil products be modulated? Are neutrophil-derived oxidative species involved in regulating gene expression of cells present in the wound environment?

A second focus involves determining the mechanisms involved in wound contraction. Wound contraction is the process by which edges of a wound are drawn toward the center. Though often a favorable occurrence during repair, there are many instances where this process becomes pathologic. These include burn contracture, compression contracture in cirrhosis, and post-surgical stricture formation. To address questions regarding contraction this laboratory has developed a singularly unique model. Open wounds in the fetal rabbit do not contract. We have recently demonstrated the ability of transforming growth factor ß (TGF-ß) to induce contraction. This model is being used to dissect the mechanisms involv3ed in contraction. Using modern molecular biology and biochemical approaches, we are addressing the following questions. What genes are turned on or off in response to TGF-ß? Is expression of these genes required for the process of contraction? What is the role of these genes? Can the expression of these genes and hence the process of contraction be controlled?

A third focus is to determine the molecular and biochemical details of hyaluronan synthesis. This glycosaminoglycan is essential to development and is associated with inflammation and tumorigenesis. It is also believed to play a major role in the "scarless" repair of the fetal dermis. Using modern molecular biology and biochemical approaches, we are addressing the following questions. Under what conditions are the different hyaluronan systhases expressed? What signaling pathways are used to regulate hyaluronan expression? Can changing the expression of the hyaluronan synthases alter adult or fetal wound repair?


Research Interests

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