The Francis lab, led by Heather Francis, PhD, focuses on understanding and identifying target therapies for chronic and often fatal liver diseases. Cholangiopathies are diseases that target cholangiocytes and include diseases like Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC), Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) and Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA).
For these diseases, there are no “true” therapeutic options that can eradicate the disease in patients. Thus far, liver resection or transplantation is the primary mode of action in terms of treatment. Further, the rise in obesity rates have induced a dramatic increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which when left untreated can often lead to cirrhosis, fibrosis and liver failure. As of 2015, over 17,000 people were awaiting liver transplantations and more than 1,500 people will die waiting for available organs or live donor liver transplantation.
Therefore, identification of targets for early diagnosis and potential therapies are critical to improve patient outcome. The Francis lab strives to produce high quality, reproducible data generated from cell lines, in vivo rodent models and human liver samples.
Heather Francis, PhD, is currently funded by both the National Institutes of Health (R01) and a Veteran’s Administration (VA) Merit. Her past funding includes a VA Career Development Award and funding from PSC Partners Seeking a Cure.