Spring 2010
Surgery consolidation dream comes true

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

William A. Zamboni, M.D.

William A. Zamboni, M.D., saw his 15-year vision for consolidating surgery research spaces realized on the Shadow Lane campus in late 2009. Photo by Dave Smith

Another School of Medicine facility, the Department of Surgery Research Laboratories, quietly opened in the biotechnology center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Shadow Lane campus.

Story by Anne McMillin, APR

"This is a tremendous step forward for the school's research efforts in Las Vegas," said William A. Zamboni, M.D., chair of the University of Nevada School of Medicine's surgery department and the driving force behind the project.

"We have the opportunity to work in our own spaces and have all School of Medicine surgical research together so we can now move forward."

With the opening of the 3,500 square-foot space, basic science research efforts for the surgery department are now concentrated into three connected and open labs to facilitate teaching and professional discourse among collaborators. Previously, research took place in rented spaces across the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Basic science research in the areas of micro-surgery, tissue ischemia, trauma resuscitation and pediatric surgery are now taking place side-by-side in the new lab. Eight surgery clinician-scientists and technicians work in the labs on various aspects of this research.

Special focus is placed on trauma resuscitation and ischemia reperfusion as it relates to limb reattachment and tissue engineering, according to Zamboni, who said clinicians use fat and stem cells to generate cartilage in the labs.

Zamboni's dream of consolidating surgical research spaces began in 1994 when he was hired by the University of Nevada School of Medicine and successfully earned a National Institutes of Health RO1 grant to study the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on ischemia reperfusion.

"I had two options at that point," he said. "Fly to Reno to do the research when I was simultaneously trying to create and build a division of plastic surgery or find space here in Las Vegas. Thanks to the efforts of former Dean Robert Daugherty, we were able to get spaces at UNLV."

As the research efforts grew, research areas popped up in empty spaces across the UNLV campus, but were not solidified in one location until last year. A single location makes day-to-day operations and administration much easier and allows medical students and surgical residents to study together and exchange ideas with colleagues at UNLV.

At the surgery research labs, pediatric surgeon John Gosche, M.D., will continue to expand his research efforts into bile duct involution during lamprey metamorphosis. The opening of the surgical research laboratory has made it possible for him to introduce new techniques that otherwise would not have been logistically possible.

"Bile duct involution occurs as a programmed event during metamorphosis in the lamprey, but the molecular and cellular events that induce bile duct loss remain unexplored," Gosche said. "My goal is to find the genetic origins of bile duct involution in the lamprey to identify a possible etiology of biliary atresia in humans."

He said he initially became interested in this research because he believes that bile duct involution during lamprey metamorphosis is an unusual and potentially valuable animal model for a disease that presently is lacking a good animal model.

It also appeared that the lamprey model of biliary atresia was not being adequately explored. According to Gosche, biliary artresia occurs in approximately one in 10,000 to 20,000 human infants.

In addition, research and findings in generated from a $1.4 million Department of Defense grant to study trauma resuscitation from battlefield injuries will take place at the surgical research labs and funds from that grant will allow for the purchase of a flow cytometer and confocal microscope.

"We have finally come full circle as a serious research effort within the School of Medicine," Zamboni said.

"This is space we have deserved for some time. It allows continued expansion of the department through the recruitment of clinical and scientific staff and opens the door for similar efforts in other Las Vegas departments."