The Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology has both strong basic and clinical research components. It has consistently been among the top medical school pathology departments in the United States in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant funding in recent years, ranking in the top twenty in the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research NIH funding rankings.

The department's major areas of research emphasis include: 

The department has been very effective in promoting these efforts by working in partnership with the groups listed below, and other Medical School-wide centers. Through these partnerships the department has strengthened its own research base while making major contributions to the research enterprise of the institution as a whole. We are fundamentally committed to building on these productive interactions and promoting the research opportunities they afford.

NCI-designated Masonic Comprehensive Cancer Center

NCI-designated Masonic Comprehensive Cancer Center

Center for Immunology

Institute for Translational Neuroscience

Institute for Engineering in Medicine

Center for Genomic Engineering

Cancer Biology

The department has a very close working relationship with the University of Minnesota's Masonic Cancer Center, an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center since its inception. This is reflected by research strength, collaborative successes in establishment and maintenance of shared resources, and collaborative successes in the recruitment of new faculty. Many of the department's faculty play major leadership roles in the Cancer Center: James McCarthy is the Tumor Microenvironment program co-leader. Yoji Shimizu is the program leader for Immunology.  Scott Dehm is the group leader for Genitourinary Tumors Translational Work Group.  Betsy Hirsch is the Cytogenomics Shared Resource director.

The research interests of the department's cancer biology faculty include:

  • Khalil Ahmed, PhD, is studying the functional role of protein kinase CK2 in cancer cells, employing prostate cancer and head-and-neck cancer as experimental models at the VA Medical Center.
  • Scott Dehm, PhD, focuses on the role of the androgen receptor (AR) in prostate cancer development and progression.
  • Dorraya El-Ashry, PhD, investigates circulating cells from the breast cancer microenvironment as potential biomarkers of metastasis.
  • Alessio Giubellino, MD, PhD, studies the molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways in melanoma with the goal of developing predictive biomarkers and combination therapies for the disease. 
  • Myron Gross, PhD, develops biomarkers and applies them in epidemiologic studies for the identification of risk factors and mechanisms associated with cancer and other chronic diseases.
  • Steve Hecht, PhD, studies mechanisms and prevention of tobacco-induced cancer, focusing on tobacco carcinogens, their metabolism and DNA adducts.
  • Betsy Hirsch, PhD, uses cytogenetic and molecular cytogenetic techniques to analyze and elucidate chromosome abnormalities in inherited disorders, cancer, and residual disease in cancer patients before and following treatment.
  • Ameeta Kelekar, PhD, is investigating the differences in how metabolic pathways operate in malignant versus healthy tissue.
  • James McCarthy, PhD, studies the importance of changes in microenvironment in the growth, invasion and progression of prostate tumors and melanoma.
  • Kaylee Schwertfeger, PhD, focuses on the correlation of inflammation within the tumor microenvironment with increased invasiveness and poor prognosis in many types of cancer, including breast cancer.
  • Amy Skubitz, PhD, is examining how ovarian cancer cells adhere to the extracellular matrix, to each other, and to cells that line the peritoneal cavity, which contains the ovaries.
  • Bharat Thyagarajan, MD, PhD, MPH, and his colleagues in the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory are implementing DNA sequence-based tumor diagnostics.


The department has a long history of strength in immunology research, and faculty of the department spearheaded the efforts that led in 1995 to the establishment of the Medical School-wide Center for Immunology. The Center was initiated in the department. The Center has over fifty members from across the Medical School, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering including twelve faculty whose research programs are housed in Center space. Of this multi-departmental group, five of the twelve are members of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology.  They include Matthew Mescher, past director of the Center and Kristin Hogquist, associate director of the center. Several additional departmental faculty with research interests in immunology are housed in the Cancer Center.

The immunology faculty members have a very strong record of sustained external funding, which provides a large fraction of their salaries, and their scholarly productivity is outstanding as measured by publications and citations. They are also a highly interactive group, with numerous collaborations with other investigators within the department, and in other departments and institutions. A number of departmental faculty working in the Center are pursuing research in tumor immunology, a field that has seen startling scientific and clinical advances in recent years with the development of immune checkpoint inhibitors and T-cell chimeric antigen receptors (CARs).

The research interests of the department's immunology faculty include:

  • Michael Farrar, PhD is studying B-cell development in the bone marrow and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the developmental pathway of T regulatory cells, and cancer immunotherapy.
  • Sarah Hamilton Hart, PhD focuses her research on CD8+ T cells with the goal of learning how to manipulate them to elicit the optimal protective immune response to pathogen infection. 
  • Kristin Hogquist, PhD, is investigating the molecular mechanisms of T cell development in the thymus.
  • Stephen Jameson, PhD, is studying the mechanisms that regulate the development and maintenance of T cells in the body.
  • Christopher Pennell, PhD, is studying novel strategies for immunotherapy including T-cell chimeric antigen receptors (CARs).
  • Yoji Shimizu, PhD, is investigating the intracellular signal transduction events that regulate adhesive interactions critical for effective antigen-specific immune responses.

Neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases

The neuroscience group within the department utilizes a variety of cellular and genetic approaches, including the genomic engineering of laboratory animals, to examine mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and ataxias.

The research interests of the department's neuroscience faculty include:

  • Robert Bell, MD specializes in investigation of aging-related diseases and ocular pathologies.
  • Brent Clark, MD, PhD conducts neuropathological studies of degenerative neurological diseases, most notably hereditary cerebellar ataxias and the central nervous system effects of myotonic dystrophy.
  • Margaret Flanagan, MD is neuropathologist who studies neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and spinocerebellar ataxia.  She is developing tools to better identify and understand the multiple disease processes that often coexist in individual dementia patients.
  • Mike Koob, PhD develops novel tools for engineering the genomes of laboratory animals to learn how genes that cause mitochondrial and neurodegenerative diseases function.
  • Harry T. Orr, PhD uses genetic, behavioral and cell biological approaches to explore the pathogenesis of polyglutamine neurodegenerative diseases including spinocerebellar ataxia.

Cardiovascular and renal disease and diabetes

The department’s research in cardiovascular disease and diabetes is conducted mainly through the Advanced Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (ARDL).  For more than three decades ARDL has been a premier, fully accredited clinical laboratory managing routine and specialized testing requests including specimen procurement and sample storage for more than a hundred active projects worldwide. ARDL has served as the central lab for some of the National Institute of Health's largest multi-center, longitudinal studies of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The research interests of the department's faculty investigating cardiovascular and renal disease and diabetes include:

  • Jan Czyzyk, MD studies biomolecular mechanisms and potential biomarkers in type 1 diabetes and also the genetic basis for kidney podocyte structure and function.
  • John Eckfeldt, MD, PhD, has served as PI for the central laboratory at the Advanced Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (ARDL) in many very large epidemiologic observational studies and clinical trials of cardiovascular disease and iron absorption and storage disorders.
  • Myron Gross, PhD, develops biomarkers and applies them in epidemiologic studies for the identification of risk factors and mechanisms associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
  • Amy Karger, MD, PhD, is a faculty investigator in ARDL who focuses her research on predicting and delaying the progression of chronic kidney disease.
  • Anthony Killeen, MD, PhD, is PI for the central laboratory (ARDL) of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), an NIH-funded multi-center, randomized clinical trial.
  • Danni Li, PhD applies mass spectrometry to the discovery of biomarkers for diagnosis including for diabetes and heart disease.
  • Faqian Li, MD, PhD, is investigating the molecular mechanisms that regulate cardiomyocytes, the cells involved in congestive heart failure.
  • Michael Steffes, MD, PhD, has served as PI for the central laboratory at ARDL in many large epidemiologic observational studies and clinical trials of diabetes, renal disease, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Michael Tsai, PhD, has served as PI for the central laboratory at ARDL in many large epidemiologic observational studies and clinical trials of cardiovascular disease, lipid disorders, homocysteine disorders, and diabetes.


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