Document Type


Publication Date



Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) often arises from a spectrum of liver diseases, prominently nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which progresses through nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and cirrhosis. NAFLD affects approximately 25% of the global population and poses an increasing risk for NAFLD-related HCC, necessitating the development of non-invasive molecular markers to identify at-risk individuals early in disease progression. Research highlights the critical role of the microbiome in modulating disease dynamics, particularly in conditions predisposing to HCC. Factors including high-fat diets, smoking, and alcohol disrupt the balance of beneficial and pathogenic microbial species, contributing to intestinal dysbiosis. However, precise mechanisms linking microbiome dysregulation to HCC pathogenesis remain poorly understood. This study aims to investigate the liver-inhabiting microbiota and their role in the progression of NAFLD, NASH, cirrhosis, and ultimately HCC. By analyzing microbial signatures in Hispanic/Latino and Non-Hispanic White populations in South Texas, we aim to identify distinct profiles associated with disease susceptibility across different ethnic groups. We hypothesize that these microbial signatures vary significantly among stages of liver disease and ethnicities, influencing the risk of developing HCC. Additionally, this study addresses the challenge of extracting DNA from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples, which is crucial for retrospective studies. We have standardized protocols for reliable DNA extraction from FFPE samples, enabling robust analysis of tissue-specific microbiota and their implications for HCC development. Successful completion of this project could revolutionize early diagnostics for NAFLD progression and HCC development, paving the way for novel microbial-based biomarkers and tailored interventions to mitigate HCC progression in vulnerable populations.

Academic Level

medical student

Mentor/PI Department

Immunology and Microbiology

Available for download on Wednesday, July 01, 2026