Before the launch of the Center for Cell Signaling in Gastroenterology (C-SiG), digestive disease research at Mayo Clinic was often organized by organ or disease, reinforcing a silo-like approach to scientific collaborations.
Realizing the limitations of this approach, the center leadership reorganized investigators into three highly focused, dynamic, interactive research themes focused on mechanisms of cellular and molecular processes, as opposed to specific organ physiology and cell types.
These themes are organized to follow a classic cell signaling cascade from the plasma membrane to nuclear events:
- 30 percent of C-SiG investigators are working on increasing understanding of the role of cell plasma membrane components, including ion channels, membrane receptors and cilia.
- 29 percent of C-SiG investigators are examining intracellular signal transduction cascades that occur inside the cell involving kinases, cytokines, growth factors, apoptosis and products of metabolism.
- 41 percent of C-SiG investigators are studying human and animal genetics and gene regulation, including the role of epigenetic regulation of the tumor microenvironment, genetic biomarkers and the role of bacteria found in the digestive tract in human health and disease.
Disease focus areas
In addition to the research themes, the faculty in the Center for Cell Signaling in Gastroenterology are also organized into three disease focus areas:
- Enteric neurosciences and motility, including fecal incontinence, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and functional gastrointestinal disorders
- Liver pathobiology, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, polycystic liver disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, biliary cryptosporidiosis and alcohol-based liver disease
- Inflammation and cell transformation, including Barrett's esophagus, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, hepatocellular carcinoma, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and cholangiocarcinoma
While the emphasis of the Center for Cell Signaling in Gastroenterology is on supporting the research themes, the disease focus areas set the stage for translating basic science discoveries to human disease by providing structure and the opportunity for additional collaboration and synergy.
The disease focus areas provide a forum for basic scientists and clinicians to exchange information and form collaborative alliances.
These relationships are beneficial to basic scientists, who need tissues from rare disease states and need the help of clinicians to identify potential patients. The clinicians, in turn, benefit from collaboration with basic scientists who can perform pilot studies of research ideas generated from patient care.