The Center for Urological Research comprises basic and urology research laboratories within the Lerner Research Institute and Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute. Each of these laboratories is directed by a full-time scientist faculty member jointly appointed in a basic science department as well as a urology department.
Basic research studies within the Center for Urological Research are predominantly focused in the areas of transplantation biology, renal epithelial cell biology, urologic oncology, andrology and bladder physiology. Renal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer are the two urologic malignancies being extensively studied.
The emphasis within the Center is on translational research studies that can enhance our understanding of the pathogenesis, presentation, and management of urologic diseases. All urology residents spend a full year training in one of these research laboratories; the period of research training for postgraduate urology fellows is two or three years. Members of the Center meet monthly for research presentations. In addition, research residents meet weekly to present data and for didactic lectures on research topics such as statistics, study design, scientific writing and grantsmanship.
Andrology Laboratory and Sperm Bank; Center for Advanced Research in Human Reproduction, Infertility, and Sexual Function: Research work in the Reproductive Research Center is mainly focused on elucidating the molecular mechanism associated with male and female infertility and on studies involving the management of sexual dysfunction in male and female patients following urologic surgeries.
Bladder Pathophysiology Laboratory: This laboratory focuses on projects related to bladder and female pelvic floor disorders. A number of translational projects currently investigate the bladder remodeling under diabetic conditions in both animal models and human bladder samples. These projects serve as models for studies of other pathologies involving the bladder, such as changes occurring with geriatric bladder. Recently an animal model for stress urinary incontinence and vaginal sling procedures has been created. Validation and testing of this model for a number of research questions related to treatment of stress urinary incontinence are under way.
Renal Carcinoma Immunology Laboratory: The overall goal of this laboratory research effort is to understand how renal tumors can inhibit the development of an effective anti-tumor immune response. Findings suggest that tumor-derived products can either sensitize T lymphocytes to activation-induced cell death or can directly induce apoptosis. The affected cells appear to include antigen-specific T cells. The major projects include defining the role tumor derived gangliosides and oxidized lipid products play in altering the sensitivity of T cells to apoptosis, including their mechanism of action. Additional studies are attempting to determine if the transgene expression of various anti-apoptotic genes can protect T cells from tumor-induced apoptosis.
Transplant Immunology Laboratories: The focus of the first program is inflammatory factors directing T cells and other leukocytes into renal allografts. Current projects are investigating: 1) the expression of inflammatory genes during ischemia and reperfusion of kidneys during urology transplantation and in mouse models; 2) the expression of inflammatory genes and proteins in urine as markers indicating the presence of rejection in renal allografts; and 3) the role of adhesion molecules and chemokines in directing leukocyte infiltration into organ allografts.
The second laboratory continues to focus attention on transplantation immunobiology in mouse models and translational studies of human immunology in transplant recipients. The animal studies provided new and important information on the role of memory T cells as barriers to transplant tolerance. The team additionally identified a new effector pathway for alloreactive T cells.
Human studies are progressing as well. The group has shown that post-transplant immune monitoring of human peripheral blood is feasible and that this approach may provide a reliable surrogate marker for poor outcome late post-transplant.
Prostate Cancer Laboratory: The laboratory's research focus is on understanding the biology of abnormal prostate growth. The laboratory cloned and has characterized a novel protein that we named prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is overexpressed in prostate and increases in its expression in the aggressive forms of prostate cancer. The group is identifying the biological reasons for its expression and developing new methods to further target PSMA for imaging prostate cancer and for targeting therapy to prostate tumors. They discovered that PSMA is strongly expressed in the new blood vessels of all solid tumors. Thus PSMA is a target not only for prostate tumor cells, but a target therapy development for all solid tumors.