SUFU 2018: What Can the Core Facilities Offer to the Urology Research Community? NIH-Funded Flagship (O'Brien) Research Centers

Austin, TX ( Dr. Tamara Bavendam from NIH provided overall aims and objectives of Urological Sciences for the benign urological group. O’Brian centers are interdisciplinary centers focused on solving a single urinary problem in benign disease. They are the flagship in urology and are designed to break down silos of scientific thinking and work like and incubator for generation based hypothesis. The goal is to increase research capacity of the benign urology disease community. 


  1. Change of paradigm of urologic science move from symptoms to understand the disease
  2. Attract new investigators
  3. Retain established investigator
  4. NIH workshops and meetings
These centers encourage new investigators and established investigators from outside urology to apply for grants related to their clinical focus, both of which can use their center’s resources.

Each of the four centers presented their work and accomplishments so far.

Urological Research Resources from the University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Zhou Wang presented his center’s multidisciplinary approach working on benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The following disciplines are involved: urology, pathology, pharmacology, and chemical biology. The project underway is molecular and cellular mechanisms of BPH progression (U54 NIDDK) which they divided into 3 projects.

1. Urothelial plasticity: An animal model is used and inject either EColi, or formalin into the prostate to induce inflammation and study molecular changes. They also study sensitization with afferent neural system.
2. Permeability: Cellular junctions altered by PSA leakage (disrupted tight junctions).  They study inflammation as it increases permeability and leakage of PSA.
3. Cox-2 and Estrogen receptor Beta (ERbeta) in 3-D cultures: The study is performed in the prostate of rodent model

In addition they have Educational enrichment program:

a. Full 4 summer grants for medical students (stipend and travel)
b. Symposia

Similarly other O’Brian Urology Centers presented their efforts

Urological Research Resources from the University of Wisconsin

Dr. William Ricke, presented his center’s work on types of BPH, and their new approached to understand the matrix of the urothelial wall especially collagen and fibrosis.

Their Educational enrichment includes symposia, seminars, trainings inclduing summer program, and k-12 scholarships.  The Resources include rodent urinary functional testing including flow, cystometry, and sonography of voiding. Lab computational, (Void Whizzard) software to analyze rodent voiding, (free). Microsurgery for xenograft, flow, cystometry, imaging (MRI).  Tissues (mouse, primate, dog, rats, human).   Imaging (MRI, immunohistochemistry, segmentation).  Collagen studies in BPH, fibers, orientation, and types and lastly, software development including different programs (ImageJ-FIJI Void Whizzard and others.

 Urological Research Resources from Columbia University, NY

Dr. Cathy L. Mendelsohn presented her center’s program which aims to answer the question: Why does CAKUT increase the risk for developing kidney disease?
Their projects study the following: human genetics, mouse models, and UTI with congenital abnormalities.  Their work on genomics of posterior urethral valves has lead to the NIH award and RO1 funding.

Urological Research Resources from Harvard University

Dr. Mark L. Zeidel detailed  his center’s program which focuses on identifying different genes that can lead to voiding dysfunction. They apply novel state of the art approaches to gain knowledge into lower urinary tract dysfunction. For example, they use very diverse mice strains which each have been genotyped. They perform void spot assay and cystometrograms to study their voiding pattern. Identifying abnormal patterns and correlating it to genotypes can lead to Identify markers to spot which mice will get dysfunction.

Presenter by: Tamara Bavendam, MD, Zhou Wang, PhD, William Ricke, PhD, Cathy L. Mendelsohn, PhD and Mark L. Zeidel, MD

Moderated by: Toby C. Chai, MD and Maryrose P. Sullivan, PhD

Written by: Gamal Ghoniem, MD, FACS, FPMRS, Professor and Vice Chair of Urology, University of California, Irvine, California at the Society of Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine & Urogenital Reconstruction Winter Meeting (SUFU 2018), February 27-March 3, 2018, Austin, Texas