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Texas Medical Center Digestive Diseases Center

Texas Medical Center Digestive Diseases Center’s theme is Gastrointestinal Infection and Injury” and is called DDC for simplicity. This Center serves basic and clinical scientists at institutions within the Texas Medical Center (Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center, the MD Anderson Cancer Center) in Houston, TX. Institutional resource commitments in space, funds and personnel support this effort, including new positions in basic and clinical departments for multidisciplinary, independent faculty to establish new research programs.

The DDC facilitates on-going digestive diseases research, promotes translational research between basic and clinical areas, develops new projects, nurtures new investigators, and provides educational activities. The DDC consists of an Administrative Core, three Basic Science Cores (Cellular and Molecular Morphology, Functional Genomics and Microbiome, Integrative Biology) and one Clinical Core (Study Design and Clinical Research). In addition, our Pilot/Feasibility and Enrichment Programs, including a Career Development Initiative, to support innovative ideas and new investigators in Digestive Disease research and foster collaborations are a key part of the DDC and have been extremely successful.

The Center is a multidisciplinary group of investigators of over 60 Full Members and 100 Associate Members, including basic and clinical scientists with proven track records of success, and well-coordinated clinical programs dealing with pediatric and adult GI patients. Center leaders are senior scientists-administrators experienced in directing interactive, multidisciplinary programs. Locally, a large multi-ethnic population of infants and adults with digestive diseases emphasizes a need and opportunities for this Center.

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The research theme of our center is Gastrointestinal Infection and Injury and is based on these strengths and the funded projects of our DDC members. Our theme encompasses research that investigates injury to the intestine, liver or pancreas associated with many causes including drugs, genetics, ischemia, inflammation, surgery, nutrition, or stress. Injury also includes gastrointestinal adaptation and stem cells. Translational studies including development and testing of new therapies or treatments are included in research in both infection and injury. Our DDC has particular strengths in pediatrics, basic molecular virology and microbiology, integrative biology including whole animal studies, as well as a pediatric GI-related training program, surgical training programs with strengths in GI research, and a strong history of interdisciplinary collaborations.


The Administrative Core is responsible for the overall management and coordination of the Digestive Disease Center, by providing governance, financial and operational management, and planning functions for the Texas Medical Center DDC. Responsibilities include:

  • Execution of policies and procedures that govern the DDC
  • Management of financial and personnel resources of the DDC
  • Coordination of activities of standing DDC advisory committees
  • Oversight of infrastructure and scientific cores supportive of basic and clinical GI research
  • Organization and implementation of program development activities that benefit GI research
  • Facilitation of communication and information dissemination among GI researchers, institutional officials, and external groups
  • Coordination of enrichment activities that support GI-related research and educational programs of the institution
  • Management of the annual strategic planning process for the DDC and GI-related research programs in Southeast Texas
  • Maintenance of records and preparation of reports, including any DDC-related grant applications

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The overall objectives of the Cellular and Molecular Morphology Core Laboratory are to provide expertise, equipment and procedures relevant to GI research, to make available its specialized laboratory facilities to GI researchers, and to develop new tests that may be useful in clinical and basic research.

This core is utilized by many members of the Texas Medical Center Digestive Diseases Center, and particularly serves pilot and feasibility awardees, whose experience and resources are necessarily limited. Major Core services include histology, immunohistochemistry, RNA in situ hybridization, mRNA probe generation, frozen sections for enzyme histochemistry, immunofluorescent antibody studies, live and fixed cell confocal, deconvolution microscopy and super resolution microscopy (SIM and STORM), and transmission electron microscopy, quantitative morphometric analysis, high throughput microscopy and high content analysis, laser capture microdissection for molecular genetic analyses, and digital images for internet communication and publication.

The core also provides consultation and training in the proper collection, fixation, storage and handling of human and animal tissues, as well as training and technical advice to researchers interested in developing sophisticated procedures for their GI-related research projects.

  • Routine Histology & tissue processing with unstained slides furnished to investigator
  • Special stains, per slide (i.e. PAS, silver, trichrome)
  • Frozen section, preparation & furnished to investigator
  • Enzyme histochemistry (frozen sections or cells each slide)
  • Immunofluorescence (frozen sections or cells)
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In-situ hybridization preparation and/or consultation
  • Electron microscopy, use and transmission EM including photographs
  • Immunoelectron microscopy
  • Scanning electron microscopy; sample prep (critical point drying)
  • Laser capture dissection
  • Quantitative morphometric analysis
  • Training in proper collection, fixation, storage and handling of human and animal tissues.
  • Consultation and technical advice to researchers interested in developing sophisticated procedures for their GI-related projects.

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The overall goal of the Functional Genomics and Microbiome Core (formerly, the Functional Genomics Core) is to stimulate research in infection and injury states affecting the intestine and liver. The services provided by the core include:
• Consultation in the choice of genomics methodologies to be applied to research problems being addressed by Digestive Diseases Center members

• Training in the conduct of functional genomics and metagenomics relevant to GI research

• Consultation on experimental design of gene expression (mRNA) studies and assistance with analysis of genomic profiling data
• Providing mammalian gene expression, cytokine/transcription factor/signaling pathway arrays, and gut microbial profiling/metagenomics to DDC members at discounted prices

• Facilitating analysis and bio-informatics strategies with functional genomics and microbiome datasets

• Conducting periodic workshops and disseminating information about new technologies available in the Core and to obtain feedback on needed technologies / services.

  • Cell line and plasmid construct repository
  • Electrophoretic mobility shift assays
  • Miscellaneous recombinant DNA and molecular biology techniques
  • In situ hybridization probe preparation
  • Isolation and quality assessment of RNA
  • Strategic design of gene expression profiling experiments
  • Preparation of probes for microarray
  • Bioinformatics analysis of microarray data
  • Real time quantitative PCR (rtQPCR) validation of microarray data
  • Recombinant protein production
  • Luminex liquid bead arrays/protein microarrays
  • RNAi library and chemical compound high throughput screening

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The major purpose of the Integrative Biology Core is to:
• Train members of the center and their research teams in the use of techniques
• Assess GI physiological and pharmacological responses in animals and/or tissues
• Develop animal and cell models of digestive diseases

We also facilitate the training of members of the DDC in the performance of surgical techniques in both acute and chronic animal conditions to achieve their research goals. It is anticipated that the Integrative Biology Core will serve a major function in working with faculty who have produced transgenic or gene-deleted animals to determine the effect of the over- or under-expression of a particular gene on a specific function/structure of the GI tract. In addition, the core will utilize animals to produce isolated, primary cultures of rat and mouse hepatocytes and Kupffer cells, and for the derivation of organoid cultures of intestinal cells from mice, piglets or humans in studies related to our center’s focus of GI infection and injury.

Other roles of the Integrative Biology Core are to serve as a resource of specialized techniques, animal preparations and model systems that are available in the laboratories of members of the DDC. Lastly, the Integrative Biology Core serves an educational and oversight role to the DDC members and their research staff, facilitating the enrollment of individuals in training courses in animal handling and surgery, and reviewing animal protocols for both experimental design and conformity to NIH and AAALAC guidelines on the care and treatment of laboratory animals.

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The purpose of the Study Design & Clinical Research Core is to promote the use of appropriate study design, statistical analyses, and interpretation for clinical and basic science investigators; to assist these investigators in acquiring clinical specimens to facilitate their research; as well as to assist investigators in designing and performing translational research. The primary two functions are to provide epidemiological and biostatistical support for design and analysis, and to provide investigators with access to the clinical specimens required for their basic and translational research activities.

For the first function, the goals of the core include establishing procedures and providing assistance with
• Study design, including study population identification, sample size and power estimates
• Outcomes research, including database research
• Data management including design, development and maintenance of study databases
• Biostatistical analysis, including plans for Institutional Review Board (IRB) applications, pilot and feasibility grants, NIH proposals, and manuscripts
• Proposal editing and Spanish language translation services are provided for those investigators that need that support

For the second function, the core performs and facilitates the collection of biospecimens for translational research that bridges clinical and basic research observations into patient-oriented protocols aimed at prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of digestive diseases. The core also provides a link to relevant regional and national tissue banks and provides samples from its own bank. It provides as much assistance as needed, up to and including, the actual completion of appropriate documentation, consents, and obtaining tissues needed by investigators. It provides assistance to investigators regarding interactions with IRB at Baylor and R&D committee at the VA and well as help in obtaining an IND or NDA if needed for the research. All of these services are available to both clinical and basic science investigators.

This core also offers assistance as well as didactic training in issues involving local and foreign IRB’s, HIPPA regulations, and importing or exporting clinical specimens. This core is designed to help traverse the gap in bidirectional exchange of knowledge between the basic scientists and clinical investigators; translating from the laboratory to the population. In addition, this year we have added the services of a Health Services Researcher, Dr. Jennifer Kramer, who assists investigators at the VA who are interested in using the VA administrative data to answer important research questions related to various GI conditions.

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Full Members Associate Members

Kjersti Aagaard,MD, PhD
Robert Atmar, M.D.
Michelle Barton, Ph.D.
Arthur Beaudet, M.D.
Rebecca Berdeaux, PhD
David H. Berger, M.D.
Dennis Bier, M.D.
Robert Bresalier, M.D.
Robert A. Britton, Ph.D.
Robert M. Bryan, Ph.D.
Douglas Burrin, Ph.D.
Nancy Butte, Ph.D.
Lawrence Chan, M.D.
Benny Chang,Ph.D.
Margaret Conner, Ph.D.
Charles Cox, M.D.
Jessica Davila, Ph.D.
Herbert Dupont, M.D.
Hashem B.El-Serag, M.D., M.P.H.
Mary K. Estes, Ph.D.
Michael Fallon, M.D., Ph.D.
Milton Finegold, M.D.
Loning Fu, Ph.D.
Danielle Garsin, Ph.D.
David Y.Graham, M.D.
Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D
Fasiha Kanwal, M.D., MSHS
Seema Khurana, Ph.D.
John R. Klein, Ph.D.
Paul Klotman, M.D.
Brendan Lee, M.D., Ph.D.
Lenard M. Lichtenberger, Ph.D.
Craig Logsdon, Ph.D.
David D. Moore, Ph.D.
Barbara Murray, M.D.
Philip Ng, Ph.D.
Bert O’Malley, M.D.
Pablo Okhuysen, M.D.
Robia Paulter, Ph.D.
Joseph Petrosino, Ph.D.
Marc Rhoads, M.D.
Tor Savidge, Ph.M.D.
Ben Shneider, MD
Noah Shroyer, Ph.D.
Robert Shulman, M.D.
Richard Sifers, Ph.D.
Kavindra Singh, Ph.D.
Bett ySlagle, Ph.D.
C. Wayne Smith, M.D.
Sundararajah Thevananther, Ph.D.
James Versalovic, M.D., Ph.D
John Vierling, M.D.
Salih Wakil,Ph.D.
Rob Waterland, Ph.D.
Yong Xu, Ph.D.
Yoshio Yamaoka, M.D., Ph.D.
Michael Zhu, Ph.D.
Huda Zoghbi, M.D.

Alemayehu Abebe, Ph.D.
Steven A. Abrams, M.D.
Yuko Akiyama, M.D.
Ananth Annapragada,Ph.D.
Alli Antar, Ph.D.
Jennifer M. Bailey, Ph.D.
Laura Beretta, Ph.D.
Karl-Dimiter Bissig, M.D., Ph.D.
Sarah Blutt, Ph.D.
Ghislain Breton, Ph.D.
Yanna Cao, M.D.
Beth Anne Carter, M.D.
Jeffrey Chang, Ph.D.
Cynthia Chappell, Ph.D.
Zheng “Jake” Chen, Ph.D.
Xiaodong Cheng, Ph.D.
Elizabeth Chiao, M.D., M.P.H.
Eric Chiou, M.D.
Bruno P.Chumpitazi,MD, MPH
Yeonseok Chung, Ph.D.
Thomas G. Cleary, M.D
Charles Darkoh, Ph.D.
Carla Davis, M.D.
Moreshwar Desai, M.D.
Sridevi Devaraj, Ph.D., DABCC
Gretchen Diehl, PhD
David J. Durgan, Ph.D.
Doug Fishman, M.D.
Jose Garcia, M.D.
Kevin Garey, PharmD MS
Romi Ghose, Ph.D.
Xinfu Guan, Ph.D.
Sushovan Guha, M.D., Ph.D.
Preethi Gunaratne, Ph.D.
Sanjiv Harpavat, M.D., Ph.D.
Sean Hartig, Ph.D.
Bin He, PhD
Jason Heaney, Ph.D.
Paula Hertel, M.D.
Ryan Himes, M.D.
Kendal Hirschi, Ph.D.
Jason Hou, M.D.
Hongzhen Hu, Ph.D.
Joseph Hyser, Ph.D.
Hamed Jafar-Nejad, M.D.
Li Jiao, M.D., Ph.D.
Randy Johnson, Ph.D.
Yun Kyoung Kang, Ph.D.
Shi Ke, M.D.
Richard Kellermayer, M.D., Ph.D
Tien C. Ko, M.D.
Hoonmo Koo, M.D.
Scott Kopetz, M.D., Ph.D.
Rosemary Kozar, M.D., Ph.D.
Jennifer Kramer,Ph.D.
Sunkuk Kwon, Ph.D.
William R. Lager, Ph.D.
Daniel Leung, M.D.
Dorothy Lewis, PhD
Kaiyi Li, Ph.D.
Yuying Liu, M.D., Ph.D
Michael Lorenz, Ph.D.
Weiqin Lu, Ph.D.
Yongde Luo, Ph.D
Hoda Malaty, M.D., Ph.D
Anthony Maresso, Ph.D.
Wallace McKeehan, Ph.D.
Mutsuko Minata, M.D., Ph.D.
Stacey Moore-Olufemi, MD
Numan Oezguen, Ph.D.
Oluyinka Olutoye, Ph.D.
Antone Opekun, P.A.C.
Shujuan Pan, Ph.D.
Silke Paust, Ph.D.
B.V. Venkatara Prasad, Ph.D.
Geoffrey Alan Preidis, M.D., Ph.D.
Muralidhar Premkumar, MBBS
Emily Robinson, M.D.
Prema Robinson, Ph.D.
Ergun Sahin, M.D., Ph.D.
Jeremy Schaefer, Ph.D.
Kumberly Schluns, Ph.D.
Joseph Sellin, M.D.
Eva M. Sevick-Muraca, Ph.D.
Lanlan Shen, M.D., Ph.D.
Binoy Shivanna, M.D.
Brad E. Snyder, M.D.
Shumei Song,M.D., Ph.D.
Yongcheng Song, Ph.D
Jennifer Spinler, Ph.D.
Barbara Stoll, Ph.D.
Yuxiang Sun, Ph.D.
Melissa Suter, Ph.D.
Alton G.Swennes, DVM, MS
Shinako Takeda, Ph.D.
Kalpesh Thakkar, MD
Aaron P. Thrift, Ph.D.
Qiang Tong, Ph.D.
Robert Tsai, M.D., Ph.D.
Karen Uray, Ph.D.
George Van Buren, M.D.
Fen Wang, Ph.D.
Jin Wang, Ph.D.
Donna White, Ph.D.
Xin Xie, Ph.D.
Yi Xu, Ph.D.
Xiangcang Ye, Ph.D.
Junlan Zhang, M.D., Ph.D
Yong Zhou, Ph.D.

Baylor College of Medicine
7200 Cambridge Street, Suite A10.174
Houston, TX 77030

Administrator: Sara Tristan
Phone: 713-798-3481
Fax: 713-798-0951