Division of Experimental Pathology

Division Director

Dr. Monga
Satdarshan (Paul) Singh Monga, MD
  • Professor of Pathology and Medicine
  • Endowed Chair of Experimental Pathology

Research Activities

The Division of Experimental Pathology is composed of basic, translational and clinical scientists in the department of Pathology with the sole intention of investigating cellular and molecular basis of human health and disease. The division consists of primary and affiliated members belonging to other divisions and institutes within the University of Pittsburgh. This division essentially represents the basic and translational research component of the Department of Pathology. In addition, the division members play a central role in the education of trainees at various levels. Eventually, the division members hold key service responsibilities both nationally and university-wide, playing important roles in policy- and decision-making, implementation and regulation.

Mission Statement

Striving for improved human health by better understanding of cellular and molecular processes through applied research in disease etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment.

Key Areas of Research

Tissue Pathobiology

  • Hepatic Pathobiology - Active funded research projects comprise of investigations encompassing various aspects of liver-pathobiology. These include studies in development, hepatocyte and biliary differentiation, regeneration, hepatocellular cancer, hepatoblastoma, metastasis to liver, non-alcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver diseases, hepatic fibrosis, mechanisms of hepatocyte cell death and liver injury (apoptosis, necrosis, autophagy), acute liver failure, stem cell differentiation to hepatocytes, adult liver stem cells and hepatocyte and stem cell transplantation. Some signaling pathways and mechanisms actively investigated include HGF, EGF, ILK, Wnt, Fas, PDGF, IL-6, TGFβ, PI3kinase, TNF and others.
  • Renal Pathobiology - Ongoing research in cellular and molecular pathways leading to chronic kidney fibrosis, and exploring novel strategies for therapeutic interventions. Research studies on acute and chronic renal injury, podocyte biology, tubular cell biology, EMT, signaling and extracellular matrix regulation are the current focus. Additionally, BK virus infection and JC virus infection is under investigation as a mechanism of interstitial nephritis with studies encompassing molecular and immune mechanisms with potential biomarker, prophylactic and therapeutic implications.
  • Prostate Pathobiology - Characterization of novel tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes in prostate cancer with emphasis on gene expression and signaling. Additionally basic mechanisms that lead to prostate cancer are being investigated and include promoter methylation and genomic alterations. Such studies have significant prognostic and therapeutic implications.
  • Diabetes Research - Studies are ongoing to investigate the use of cell and particle vaccines to prevent type I diabetes and such efforts include development of replication-defective viruses as vehicles to deliver insulin, ways to suppress immune rejection and stem cell research including transdifferentiation. In addition role of HGF is being investigated in suppressing cytokine production as a potential treatment of type 2 diabetes.
  • Pulmonary Pathology - Active research is ongoing in the area of oxidative stress in pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis. Additional studies are focused at protective mechanisms in lung biology and biomarker research in pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Neurodegeneration - Investigators with primary affiliation in Neuropathology and secondary affiliation in Experimental Pathology are studying neuronal injury relevant to Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. The studies examine cell signaling, oxidative stress, autophagy and apoptosis in normal and disease states for mechanistic, diagnostic and therapeutic implications.
  • Bone Pathology - Ongoing studies are focusing on understanding the complex mechanisms of bone turnover, which entails a critical balance between bone formation by the osteoblasts and bone removal by the osteoclasts. Several ongoing projects include osteoblast differentiation from mesenchymal stem cells, mineralization of the bone, and regulation of formation and function of osteoclasts.
  • Immunopathobiology - Studies are ongoing to examine immune mechanisms that prevent development of AIDS after SIV infection in nonhuman primates in contrast to humans. The ultimate goal is to investigate the role of immunotherapeutics in conjunction with anti-retroviral therapies in HIV-1 infection. Active research is also ongoing to explore the advantage of modulating immune cells such as dendritic cells for treatment of cancer.

Thematic Research

  • Stem Cell and Tissue Engineering Research - Studies are ongoing to examine role of hepatic progenitors during normal liver development and in adult liver regeneration. Role of stem cells, or progenitors is being investigated in health and disease in various tissues. ES or iPS-cell differentiation is investigated. Impact of matrix on such cells is also being studied. Additional studies on tissue engibneering for various tissues are also ongoing.
  • Matrix Biology - Studies are ongoing to examine impact of matrix on cell biology in various tissues including liver and kidney. Signaling mechanisms are being dissected relevant to integrins. Studies are performed in both in vitro and in vivo.
  • Cancer Biology - Many laboratories are focused on identifying various mechanisms of carcinogenesis in various organs and tissues. The studies funded by NIH, ACS and other organizations are geared towards investigating changes in gene expression, signaling aberrations, regulation of immune cells in tumor microenvironment, tumor vaccines, cancer stem cells, tumor metastasis and invasion, metabolism, extracellular matrix regulation, angiogenesis, autophagy, DNA damage and apoptosis.
  • Angiogenesis - The mechanisms of neovascularization are being investigated at molecular and cellular levels to understand and exploit in promoting wound healing and regeneration on one hand and target tumor growth and microenvironment on the other.
  • Injury and Inflammation - To understand the role of immune cells in the process of injury and repair is one prominent focus of the division. This is done through balanced in vitro and in vivo models. In addition, research is ongoing to identify cellular and molecular basis of atherosclerosis.

Teaching Activities

Faculty members teach the following graduate courses:
  • Molecular Mechanisms of Tissue Growth and Differentiation (Bell)
  • Cancer Biology and Therapeutics (Zarnegar)
  • Pathology Research Seminars (Mars)
  • Angiogenesis (Nagarajan)
  • Introduction to Immunobiotherapeutics (Giannoukakis)
  • Cellular therapy (Soto-Gutierrez)
  • Stem Cells (Monga)
  • Research seminars in Regenerative Medicine or CATER seminars (Monga)
Faculty members also lecture in several other graduate courses.

Training Activities

Predoctoral Training

Several predoctoral students are currently training in the labs of Experimental Pathology faculty. Most of the division members are associated with Cellular and Molecular Pathology Graduate program of the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Graduate Program of the School of Medicine. The training encompasses bench research, weekly lab meetings, journal clubs, seminars, workshops, national and international meeting opportunities and others.

CATER: Cellular Approaches to Tissue Engineering and Regeneration is a NIH-funded T32 program that supports two years of training of graduate students enrolled in Bioengineering program or Cellular and Molecular Pathology graduate program in disciplines of tissue regeneration, bioengineering and stem cell biology. The students are nominated through a centralized process by CATER faculty and training entails specialized courses and lab training. The program is directed by Dr. Monga.

ATP: Angiogenesis Training Program is another NIH-funded T32 training program that supports graduate students with interest in angiogenesis. The program consists of didactic coursework and lab training for two years. Students are similarly nominated for the program by training faculty of ATP. This program is led by Dr. Wendy Mars of the division of Experimental Pathology.

Postdoctoral Training

Several postdoctoral fellows are currently training in the labs of several Experimental Pathology faculty. The training encompasses bench research, journal clubs, seminars, workshops, national and international meeting opportunities and others.

Calendar of Events

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Aaron Bell, PhD - Research Assistant Professor
Andrew Duncan, PhD - Assistant Professor
Mo R. Ebrahimkhani, MD - Associate Professor
Dong Hu, MD, PhD - Research Assistant Professor
Hun-Way Hwang, MD, PhD - Assistant Professor
Sungjin Ko, PhD - Research Assistant Professor
Eric Lagasse, PharmD, PhD - Associate Professor
Silvia Liu, PhD - Assistant Professor
*Youhua Liu, PhD - Professor
*Joseph D. Locker, MD, PhD - Professor
*Jianhua Lou, MD, PhD - Professor
Wendy Mars, PhD - Associate Professor
*George K. Michalopoulos, MD, PhD - Professor
*Satdarshan (Paul) S. Monga, MD - Professor
Kari Nejak-Bowen, MBA, PhD - Assistant Professor
Michael Oertel, PhD - Assistant Professor
Shirish Paranjpe, PhD - Research Associate Professor
Reben Raeman, MS, PhD - Assistant Professor
Galina Shurin, PhD - Research Assistant Professor
*Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez, MD, PhD - Associate Professor
Junyan Tao, PhD - Research Assistant Professor
Ivona Vasile-Pandrea, MD, PhD
Yanping Yu, PhD - Associate Professor
*Reza Zarnegar, PhD - Professor
Dong Zhou, MD, PhD - Assistant Professor

*Denotes tenured faculty


Harry Blair, MD
Charleen Chu, MD, PhD
Marie C. DeFrances, MD, PhD
David Finegold, MD
Nick Giannoukakis, PhD
Shou-Jiang (SJ) Gao, PhD
Julia Kofler, MD
Peter Lucas, MD, PhD
Tim D. Oury, MD, PhD
Octavia Peck-Palmer, PhD
Sarangarajan Ranganathan, MD
Partha Roy, PhD
Michael Shurin, MD, PhD
Kenichi Tamama, MD, PhD
Alan Wells, MD, DMS
Clayton Wiley, MD, PhD
Chuanyue (Cary) Wu, PhD
Cecelia Yates, PhD
Dean Yimlamai, MD, PhD
Jian Yu, PhD