U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Theo Heller
 

 Contact Info

 
Tel: 301-402-7147
Email: theoh@intra.niddk.nih.gov
 

 Select Experience

 
  • Hepatology FellowshipLDB, NIDDK, NIH2003
  • Gastroenterology and Hepatology FellowshipUniversity of Maryland Medical Systems2000
  • Postdoctoral FellowshipHepatitis Viruses Section, NIAID1997
  • Internal Medicine ResidencyGeorgetown University Hospital1993
  • M.D.University of the Witwatersrand1989
  • B.S.University of Cape Town1983
 

 Related Links

 
Specialties
  • Clinical Research
  • Translational Research

Research Summary

Research Goal

Liver disease presents a unique confluence of many disciplines, in both the basic science and clinical realms. Additionally, there are many unanswered questions in terms of basic hepatic biology and the development of liver disease. Our laboratory is interested in testing hypotheses in clinical situations that can be translated into laboratory projects, which in turn might lead to fundamental biologic insights and improved disease management. A philosophical approach is that clinical observations can sometimes best be explained at the bench and that human disease investigation is in many ways better than a model—it is a direct study of authentic biology. It is believed that human disease is a window into biology and that by studying diseases, some rare, derived concepts may be extrapolated to a far broader understanding of biologic principles.

The laboratory focus is on the intersection of the innate immune system and hepatic damage and repair. The clinical focus is on noncirrhotic portal hypertension, including nodular regenerative hyperplasia. Patients with chronic granulomatous disease, sickle cell disease, Turner syndrome, and sporadic nodular regenerative hyperplasia drive both the laboratory and clinical research. These projects are the result of significant collaborations with multiple other investigators. Additionally, we have a long-standing interest in hepatitis D, acute hepatitis C, and congenital hepatic fibrosis.

All of the work is carried out with the direct mentorship of T. Jake Liang, M.D., the branch chief. The clinical projects also benefit from the involvement and direction of Jay Hoofnagle, M.D..

Current Research

A variety of clinical and laboratory researchers are involved in the study of liver disease, as many questions remain unanswered about hepatic—liver-related— biology and how liver disease begins.

Our laboratory tests hypotheses, in clinical situations, with patients. The results can then be adapted into laboratory projects that may lead to fundamental biologic insights and better disease management. We believe it is often better to study human disease through real-life clinical observations than through models.

Human disease is a window into biology. Thus, by studying diseases—some rare—researchers can use the concepts learned to gain a better understanding of far broader biologic principles.

Our laboratory focuses on the connections between the innate immune system and liver-related damage and repair. The clinical focus is on noncirrhotic portal hypertension, which is when a person’s blood pressure rises above normal levels in the hepatic circulation of the liver for other reasons than the liver disease called cirrhosis. We also study patients with chronic granulomatous disease, sickle cell disease, Turner syndrome, sporadic nodular regenerative hyperplasia, hepatitis D, acute hepatitis C, and congenital hepatic fibrosis.

Applying our Research

Due to our research in this area, fewer people will die of liver disease, a disease that disproportionately affects people during their most productive working years.