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Meet Yale Internal Medicine: Vikas Gupta, MD/PhD

August 22, 2022
by Abigail Davis

As a part of our “Meet Yale Internal Medicine” series, today’s feature is on Vikas Gupta, MD/PhD, assistant professor of medicine (digestive diseases) and of pathology; and associate director of the Gastroenterology Fellowship Program.

Vikas Gupta, MD/PhD, is a physician-scientist interested in understanding the fundamental biology of chronic liver diseases.

Inspired by his father’s career journey, Gupta became interested in medicine as a teenager. “My father actually went to medical school while I was in high school, and he became a doctor very late in his career - he wasn’t a practicing physician until he was 40. I saw what he did and thought it was fascinating, so I was very interested in medicine from a young age,” he said.

Gupta started volunteering at his local hospital and shadowing physicians during high school. As an undergraduate, he was drawn to basic science research as well.

“I started to realize that a lot of what we do for patients is like a band-aid and does not target the underlying disease process,” said Gupta. “I saw research as an avenue to push forward our boundaries of knowledge to try and help patients with chronic illness. That’s how I ended up applying to an MD-PhD program and trying to make research a component of what I do.”

While pursuing his MD and PhD from Duke University School of Medicine, Gupta studied zebrafish heart regeneration. It wasn’t until his internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he came across many patients with fibrotic diseases and he became interested in Gastroenterology (GI).

Gupta went on to complete a GI fellowship at Weill Cornell Medical College, where he dissected how different populations of fibrogenic cells contribute to the process of cholestatic liver fibrosis. He transitioned to Yale School of Medicine in July 2021, excited to continue his career at Yale because of its strong research programs and the opportunity to work in the same environment as a number of prominent investigators in cholangiocyte biology.

During his first year at Yale, Gupta started his own lab dedicated to making impactful discoveries concerning fibrosing, inflammatory, and cancerous diseases of the biliary tree and identifying ways to translate those findings to patients.

His lab examines different cells in the large extrahepatic bile ducts to try to determine what makes each population of cells distinct. He is also curious about cellular homeostasis of the epithelium of the larger bile ducts, explaining that “all epitheliums of our body, whether it’s your skin, or your intestinal tract, turn over at some sort of intrinsic rate. It is not clear how different compartments of the extrahepatic biliary tree accomplish this.”

“Right now, we don’t have many insights into just how the system really works,” he added. “I want to develop a foundational understanding of what cells are doing: How does the epithelium communicate with the mesenchyme beneath it? How does it turnover through time? I think that trying to understand these processes will give us better insights into human diseases because we will be able to identify what is going wrong.”

As a practicing hepatologist, Gupta sees patients with liver diseases at Yale New Haven Hospital. He also helps to oversee Yale’s Digestive Diseases Fellowship, with a focus on the research aspects of the fellowship. The majority of his time at Yale, however, has been spent in his lab, recruiting other researchers and getting his research projects up and running.

“My favorite part of coming into work is the thought that on any given day, we might be able to discover something new. That’s what keeps the motivation going. That’s what keeps me coming in every single day, excited to do what we do,” said Gupta.

Since forming one of the nation’s first sections of hepatology and then gastroenterology over 50 years ago, Yale’s Section of Digestive Diseases has had an enduring impact on research and clinical care in gastrointestinal and liver disorders. To learn more about their work, visit Digestive Diseases.

Submitted by Julie Parry on August 05, 2022