With the overarching goal to offer patients new and better options, our research spans basic, translational, clinical and health services delivery and outcomes investigations. The Department has earned a reputation for its use of advanced tools, such as RNA sequencing and novel animal models, to study the circuitry involved in hunger, food intake, satiety and metabolism.
Examples of faculty work include:
- Research into the hormones and signaling pathways that control appetite, energy balance and body weight. Findings are yielding insights into how gut-brain communications influence obesity-related diseases, such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH.
- Investigations into the peptide GLP1, produced in the brain, intestine and pancreas, that have shown the critical role of pancreatic GLP-1 in regulating glucose homeostasis. This discovery is important to better targeting GLP1 agonists in the treatment of diabetes.
- Elucidation of the role certain immune cells, adipocyte stem cells, and signaling pathways play in fat, or adipose, tissue dysfunction connected with obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Identification of the epigenetic and signaling mechanisms that impact wound healing in patients with diabetes.
- Studies to understand the role of changes in bile acids and their receptors —previously under-appreciated players — in metabolic improvements following bariatric surgery.
- Investigations into the role obesity and metabolic disease play in classical surgical topics, such as trauma recovery, sepsis and cancer development, progression and treatment.
Health services research also is critical to our work, enabling us to improve — and develop new — procedures, minimize complications and enhance outcomes. Findings also help us predict the response to interventions so that we can identify therapies mostly likely to achieve the best results for each of our patients. Several of the Department's faculty lead and participate in the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative (MBSC), a national model for improving bariatric surgical care.
The MBSC has improved the safety of bariatric surgery in Michigan in several ways:
- Lowering the risk of complications, such as wound infections and blood clots
- Lessening the use of unnecessary procedures
- Reducing hospital readmissions
- Creating tools to help guide patients to the best procedure for them.
Unparalleled Resources for Research and Research Education
Our faculty have developed several robust resources, including a tissue bank of human visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue and sophisticated in vitro two-dimensional and three-dimensional human cell culture systems. We also train the next generation of surgeon-scientists with the support of a competitive National Institutes of Health T32 training grant in bariatric surgical science. Ours is the only such grant in the United States focused on bariatric surgery research training, structured to equally support both basic science and health services research.