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              Shriners Hospitals for Children - Galveston                                   University of Texas Medical Branch
                                                                                                                            John Sealy Hospital
                                                                                                                             Blocker Burn Unit

Specializing in the treatment of radiation, chemical, thermal, and inhalation injury


The Galveston Burn Center

An international center of excellence for burn care


The Galveston Burn Center has its origins in the 1947 explosion in Texas City, TX, which killed 653 people and injured thousands more. This disaster inspired new models for treating mass casualties and prompted Dr. Truman Blocker to open a burn unit at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). UTMB began providing clinical care to Shriners patients in 1963, and Shriners Burns Hospital was opened on the UTMB campus in 1966. UTMB’s Blocker Burn Unit and Shriners Hospitals for Children—Galveston share clinical and research staff as well as facility space and equipment, creating a strong and unique collaborative team. Indeed, this burn center boasts the best burn survival statistics in the country. A recent grant from BP funded a $25 M renovation of the Truman Blocker Burn Unit. Expert care is not limited to burns. Aggressive infections and certain skin conditions (Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Syndrome & Epidermolysis Bullosa) are also treated.



Clinicians and researchers at the Burn Center engage in educational telemedicine efforts, participate in international telemedicine clinics, attend international burn conferences, and facilitate education through the web.

Outreach efforts also include active participation in the Burn Research in Texas (BRIT) consortium, which was established to facilitate multicenter studies in the burn field. BRIT members include the largest burn centers in Texas. Currently, nine ongoing multicenter studies at the Burn Center include consortia members (SHC-G/UTMB & Institute for Translational Sciences, UT-Southwestern, UT HSC at Houston, UT HSC at San Antonio, Texas Tech, and U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research).




The Burn Center offers a multidisciplinary program for training clinicians and researchers interested in academic translational research in the areas of burns and trauma. To date, 278 clinical and research fellows have been trained (233 MDs, 8 MD/PhDs, 40 PhDs, 2 DO, 2 DVMs, 6 MBBSs, 1 FRCS, 1 MBChB, and 1 MS). The majority (>75%) now hold academic positions in trauma, burns and critical care, with some now serving as lead administrators at other burn centers. Fellows are supported by research fellowships (5 NIH, 2 Shrine, 4 funded extramurally) and clinical fellowships (2 ACGME accredited, 4 Shrine)



UTMB/Shriners Hospitals for Children—Galveston has active research programs, strong interdepartmental collaboration, and grant funding from federal and private sources.

In 2016, extramural research funds totaled $13,824,426 (federal, $11,137,812 and private, $2,686,650). Additional funding includes $2,908,216 from Shriners Hospitals for Children, a $12.5 M endowment from BP (“Remembering the 15”), and other endowments for burn researchers.

UTMB/Shriners Hospitals for Children—Galveston has a national and international reputation for excellence in trauma and burns care. The work of burn center researchers has given rise to multiple advances in burn and critical care medicine over the past 30 years. Other innovations and discoveries by the center are expected to further advance these fields in the coming decades.

 Discoveries and innovations attributed to the burn center within the last 5 years include the following:

  • Hypermetabolism and its negative downstream effects, including scarring, can be safely counteracted by propranolol, which is in final stages of study before being incorporated into standard of care.
  • Altered mitochondrial function contributes to the hypermetabolic stress response to burns.
  • Brown adipose tissue plays an important metabolic role in humans.
  • Oxandrolone helps preserve bone mass long term in burned children and when combined with propranolol, reverses growth arrest in these individuals.
  • Translation of experimental acute lung injury therapies to clinical trials (nebulized epinephrine, intravenous mesenchymal stem cells, selepressin, Vitamin E).
  • Use of virtual reality as an adjunctive therapy for the pain and anxiety associated with wound cleaning, physical therapy, and exercise.
  • Isolation and topical application of adipose-derived stem cells to burn wounds in a preclinical model.
  • Use of “omics” approaches to characterize the response to burns, including RelA networks, and identify biomarkers of survival.
  • Established new animal model of scarring and whole-skin cultures from punch skin biopsies.
  • Discovery of a potential therapeutic anti-scarring compound that regulates collagen and interstitial matrix production.
  • M2b monocytes/macrophages increase susceptibility of burn patients to various opportunistic infections through their production of CCL1. Targeting of CCL and propranolol can both potentially be used to improve infections resistance.
  • Inhibiting peroxynitrite-PARP and CBS-hydrogen sulfide pathways has therapeutic potential for burns.

  Medical And Scientific Staff


The medical and scientific staff of Shriners Hospitals for Children—Galveston is made up of 50 professionals with diverse expertise. This group of researchers are among the top of their fields, serving on grant review panels (e.g., NIH study sections) and holding leadership positions in national and international organizations and societies (e.g., American Burn Association and International Society for Burn Injuries).

Researchers at Shriners Hospitals for Children—Galveston have a highly productive publication record. From 2011 to the date of this prospectus (January 2017), this group has authored 921 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Over the years, this group has also authored close to 50 books. One of these, Total Burn Care, is considered the definitive reference for burn care and is now available in multiple translations.

  Future Directions

  • Pursue stem cell-based therapies for smoke inhalation injury, burn wound healing, and scar reduction.
  • Expand Microscopy SSF to support new methodologies for existing and new projects.
  • Develop novel stable isotope methodologies for probing key metabolic questions pertaining to the burn stress response.
  • Define the role of mitochondria in hypermetabolism & hypercatabolism after burns.
  • Develop new combined pharmacologic, nutritional, and exercise strategies that hasten the restoration of metabolic function after burns.
  • Fine tune exercise rehabilitation programs to include exercise in the ICU and to maintain exercise-induced benefits long term (1-2 years post burn).
  • Develop microbial hydrogen sulfide inhibitors to increase antibiotic efficacy in burn patients.
  • Determine the mechanisms underlying satellite cell dysfunction & hypertrophic scarring.
  • Establish an Immunology/Inflammation SSF to support expanding research efforts in these areas.
  • Translate experimental treatments for lung injury showing promise in clinically relevant large animal models to pilot clinical trials.
  • Organize a summit among clinicians and researchers to reach consensus on diagnosis, grading, and treatment of smoke inhalation injury.





Blocker Burn















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