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School of Medicine Columbia

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Cell Biology and Anatomy

Our department is committed to providing rigorous education in anatomical and cell biology sciences. Our faculty and students regularly win grants, get prestigious fellowships and are awarded scholarships. 

Interdisciplinary Research 

Our faculty members work on research teams within the School of Medicine, the University of South Carolina system and beyond. These relationships give us access to best-in-class technology and diverse areas of research. The partnerships have proved effective; our students and faculty have won numerous awards to support their research. 

Areas of Research Interest

Despite advances in our understanding of cardiovascular development, congenital defects in this system remain the leading forms of birth defects in humans. Studies are aimed at elucidating the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular development to enable better methods of detecting and treating congenital defects in this system. A variety of cutting-edge cell culture and animal models are being used in conjunction with microscopic, biochemical and molecular analyses.


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and includes a number of conditions such as atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack), hypertension, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and others. Studies in the department are aimed at advancing our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of heart disease and how these translate to alterations in organ function. This research requires an integrated approach across multiple disciplines and departmental faculty have formed numerous collaborations with researchers within the University of South Carolina and at other institutions. The ultimate goal of this area of research is to develop better strategies for treatment of heart disease.


Normal function of blood vessels is critical to delivery of oxygen, nutrients and other materials to tissues of the body. Diseases of the vasculature, including atherosclerosis and aneurysms, are common, particularly in South Carolina. Research in the department is focused on elucidating the mechanisms of vascular diseases and development of more effective detection and treatment strategies for these diseases. This research includes innovative in vitro and animal models as well as examination of patient specimens. This research is performed in collaboration with investigators in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and well as clinical faculty in the Department of Surgery.


Reproductive biology research in the department is focused on developmental processes of the male and female reproductive systems during postnatal development and control mechanisms in adulthood. These studies aim to understand mechanisms of infertility, endocrine disruption by environmental contaminants and the basic science of hypothalamic, anterior pituitary gland and gonadal function.


Biomedical Engineering is a rapidly growing, interdisciplinary field which involves application of engineering concepts and analytical approaches to a wide range of health-related problems, from predicting blood flow patterns in tumors to design of orthopedic devices, such as knee and hip joint replacements. The field draws on tools and conceptual frameworks, such as fluid mechanics and signal processing, from a wide spectrum of traditional engineering disciplines, including chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science.  A number of faculty at the School of Medicine apply biomedical engineering approaches to a broad variety of medical problems and issues, which include developing new ways to repair abdominal hernias, understanding how fluid flow affects heart valve development and creating mathematical models to predict atherosclerotic plaque rupture.

USC Biomedical Engineering

Regenerative Medicine is a rapidly evolving field that encompasses a variety of disciplines aimed at replacing, repairing or regenerating human tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function. Millions of people suffer from a vast assortment of diseases and complications that are now treated with new regenerative medicine therapies. The goal of research from a group of faculty at the School of Medicine is to develop biocompatible tissues and treatments for numerous diseases and pathologies. Heart valves, cartilage, bone, cornea and wound healing are examples of the tissues and diseases these labs study. Furthermore, many have incorporated the use of stem cells, which provide the necessary cellular component to create these in vitro constructs. As a result, the development of biocompatible tissues using the host’s owns cells have the potential to alleviate the problem of the shortage of organs available for donation.

Core Courses

This course is primarily a literature based course designed for graduate students with research interests in women's reproductive biology. Topics covered include the menstrual cycle of women and estrous cycles of various animals, hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, ovarian steroidogenesis, pregnancy and gonadal development. Specific disease topics covered are tailored to the student's interest may include infertility, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, endometriosis and fibroids.

This course is designed for graduate students who have an interest in the cardiovascular system. The course largely relies on primary scientific literature. Topics covered in the course include basic cardiovascular development and physiology as well as congenital cardiovascular defects and specific pathologies of the cardiovascular system including myocardial infarction, hypertension, atherosclerosis, valve disorders and others. Discussions are also included that center around detection and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

The primary goal of Medical Embryology and Gross Anatomy (MEGA) is to provide students with a basic understanding of the gross anatomy, embryology and radiologic imaging of the entire human body. This course prepares students to apply anatomy and embryology concepts to the clinical sciences and to apply radiologic imaging toward the diagnosis of clinical disorders. MEGA is an intense, integrated, 16-week regionally-based curriculum with dissections, peer teaching and learning, as well as self-directed active learning forming the basis for the laboratory.  Additional lectures in embryology and imaging provide a clinical foundation for the remainder of the student's medical education.  

The structure of cells, tissues and organs is studied and the functional significance of their morphological features is presented. Laboratory materials offer firsthand observations of structures in humans, non-human primates and other mammalian tissues through the study of digitized static labeled images and digitized images that are virtual slides when viewed using your laptop computer as a "virtual microscope." Students are expected to learn to "read" images in order to identify specific structures, cells, tissues and organs and to integrate basic concepts and principles of microscopic anatomy and histophysiology as they pertain to clinical medicine. Learning experiences are intended to foster critical thinking skills about contemporary topics that correlate basic science studies with clinical problems. The course provides the structural basis to understand principles to be learned in biochemistry, physiology, pathology and internal medicine.

This is an intensive cadaver-based human anatomy course taken by graduate students in health and biomedical-related areas including the Physician Assistant program at the School of Medicine. The primary goal of this course is to provide students with a broad appreciation of anatomy and the inter-relation of human structure with physiology and pathology. In addition to lecture and laboratory instruction, the course includes radiological and ultrasound imaging of anatomical structures.


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