The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville

Vascular Research Laboratory

The Vascular Research Laboratory (VRL) is a basic and translational research facility dedicated to the study of peripheral vascular disease. Our mission is to take a collaborative approach to translational research of vascular pathology, with scientists and physicians working closely together on clinically significant research endeavors.

The VRL has two primary research objectives. First is to define the molecular and cellular mechanisms leading to intimal hyperplasia restenosis, the most common chronic complication following balloon angioplasty, vascular stenting, and vascular bypass graft surgery. We have identified and published extensively on the dysfunctional gene regulation of enzymatic remodeling pathways and inflammatory modulators that play a mechanistic role in these complications.

Our mechanistic studies have garnered significant interest toward the advancement of our second research objective. This involves designing nanoparticles for vascular drug delivery aimed at hyperplasia prevention and improved surgical outcomes. Current research in this area primarily focuses of the development of liposomal nanocarriers designed for targeted vascular gene therapy applications and their optimization as nanoscale biomaterials for vascular theranostics capable of simultaneous diagnosis, drug delivery, and monitoring of therapeutic response.

Overall, the VRL’s principal aim is the development of therapeutic interventions to increase the success of endovascular procedures and improve long-term vascular surgical outcomes. The Vascular Research Laboratory also supports clinical research projects within the Department of Surgery and plays a primary role in research education for surgical residents, vascular fellows, and undergraduate and graduate students.

Faculty and Staff

The VRL is co-directed by Oscar H. Grandas, MD, Medical Director and Professor, and Deidra J.H. Mountain, PhD, Scientific Director and Associate Professor. Dr. Grandas is responsible for the translational oversight and clinical direction of the VRL, while Dr. Mountain oversees the experimental direction and manages all research activities within the laboratory. Stacy S. Kirkpatrick, Laboratory Supervisor is responsible for laboratory maintenance and personnel and regulatory oversight. The VRL team includes numerous technical staff with multi-disciplinary training to support projects requiring technical expertise in small animal survival surgery, lab animal pathology, immunohistochemistry and histological interpretation, fluorescent microscopy, electrophoresis, ELISA, cell and tissue culture, isolation, and cryo-preservation, gene silencing and insertion, and gene expression analysis.


General Surgery Residents with an interest in academic medicine or the possibility of a career as a physician scientist may benefit from additional training in a multifaceted basic and translational research program. Those residents interested in devoting one year of their residency program to research training may be accepted to the Vascular Research Team to gain experience in a wide array of laboratory techniques and make original contributions to the field of vascular biology research.

Vascular Surgery Fellows in the first year of their fellowship training are assigned to the Vascular Research Team for a six month rotation. During this time the fellow achieves technical proficiency in a number of basic laboratory techniques, gains significant experience in microsurgical techniques and the use of an operative microscope, and is expected to make an original contribution to the field of basic vascular biology research in the form of peer-reviewed publications and presentations at national meetings.

Graduate students at the masters or doctoral level in the Comparative and Experimental Medicine Program at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, can also benefit from research education through the Vascular Research Laboratory. Both Drs. Mountain and Grandas have Approval to Direct Doctoral Research through the graduate program and are willing to accept qualified graduate students for mentorship through their laboratory.

Medical Students awarded the Collmann Medical Student Educational Endowment Foundation Fellowship are also eligible for training through the Vascular Research Laboratory. This summer program is offered through the Deans Office at UTGSM and is designed for medical students wishing to gain research experience following their first year in an accredited medical training program. These students are assigned a portion of an ongoing research project in the Vascular Research Laboratory and are instructed over the summer term in experimental design, laboratory techniques, and data collection and analysis.

Additional opportunities for research education are available to undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students as well as. Contact the Vascular Research Laboratory for details.


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