Nissi M. Varki, M.D.

Nissi M. Varki, M.D.

  • Professor
  • Director of Histopathology Resources, Cancer and Mouse Histopathology
  • M.D. - Christian Medical College, Vellore, India
  • Residency Training: Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraka
  • Board Certifications: Anatomic and Clinical Pathology
  • Clinical Specialty: Tumor markers and histopathology of gene-altered mice

Research Interests

Dr. Nissi Varki's research interests include comparative histopathology analysis of genetically altered mice, and models of human diseases including cancer, inflammatory disorders and microbial infections. She is investigating the role of glycosylated molecules in tumor progression and metastasis, including evidence for a human-specific mechanism for diet and antibody-mediated inflammation in human carcinogenesis. Another area of recent exploration is the tissue and species-specific expression of sialic-acid binding lectin receptors known as Siglecs, which play an important role in regulating host innate immune responses and inflammation. Dr. Varki also has a longstanding interest in immunological mechanisms operating at the gastrointestinal mucosal epithelium and their role in chronic colitis and colon cancer development. Dr. Varki serves as Director of the Histopathology Core laboratories Mouse Phenotyping Services at UC San Diego and teaches in the histology and pathology laboratory sessions for medical students, mentors numerous undergraduate students and high school students and serves on the Recruitment and Admissions Committee for the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Focus Area: Inflammation Cancer, models of human disease

Representative Publications

  1. Diaz, S. L., Padler-Karavani, V., Ghaderi, D., Hurtado-Ziola, N., Yu, H., Chen, X., Brinkman-Van der Linden, E. C., Varki, A. and Varki, N. M.: Sensitive and specific detection, of the non-human sialic Acid, N-glycolylneuraminic acid in human tissues and biotherapeutic products. PLoS ONE. 4(1):e4241, 2009.
  2. Varki, N., Anderson, D., Herndon, J. G., Pham, T., Gregg, C. J., Cheriyan, M. Murphy, J., Strobert, E., Fritz,  J., Else, J. G. and Varki, A.: Heart disease is common in humans and chimpanzees, but is caused by different pathological processes. Evolutionary Applications. 2(1):101-112, 2009.
  3. Varki, N. M., Strobert, E., Dick, E. J. Jr, Benirschke, K., Varki, A.:  Biomedical differences between human and nonhuman hominids: potential roles for uniquely human aspects of sialic acid biology. Annu Rev Pathol. 2011 Feb 28;6:365-93. Review.
  4. Orr, S. L., Le, D., Long, J. M., Sobieszczuk, P., Ma, B., Tian, H., Fang, X., Paulson, J. C., Marth, J. D. and Varki, N.: A phenotype survey of 36 mutant mouse strains with gene-targeted defects in glycosyltransferases or glycan-binding proteins. Glycobiology. 23(3):363-80, 2013.
  5. Grewal, P. K., Aziz, P. V., Uchiyama, S., Rubio, G. R., Lardone, R. D., Le, D., Varki, N. M., Nizet, V. and Marth, J. D.: Inducing host protection in pneumococcal sepsis by preactivation of the Ashwell-Morell receptor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 110(50):20218-23, 2013.
  6. Padler-Karavani, V., Hurtado-Ziola, N., Chang, Y. C., Sonnenburg, J. L., Ronaghy, A., Yu, H., Verhagen, A., Nizet, V., Chen, X., Varki, N., Varki, A. and Angata T.: Rapid evolution of binding specificities and expression patterns of inhibitory CD33-related Siglecs in primates. FASEB J. 28(3):1280-93, 2014.
  7. Click here to search for my publications


Dr. Nissi Varki completed her MBBS degree in 1974 from Christian Medical College, Vellore, India, one of the foremost medical institutions in South-East Asia.

She then completed pathology residencies at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, and at St. Louis, Missouri. She was Board Certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology in 1983. She went on to postdoctoral training in tumor immunology, first at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and then at the Research Institute of Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA.

In 1984 she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she started her NIH funded research in cancer metastasis. She then moved to her joint appointment in the Departments of Medicine and Pathology at the University of California, San Diego, where she used her funded NIH RO1 grants to continue her work on lung carcinoma metastasis and in developing athymic mouse models of carcinoma metastasis. She also started four histopathology core laboratories, helping investigators analyze genetically altered animals.

She is on the School of Medicine Recruitment and Admissions Executive Committee and teaches laboratory sessions for the sophomore SOM 208 Human Disease course. She teaches immunohistochemistry and histopathology during one-on-one sessions with medical and graduate postdoctoral fellows. She also helps students attain histotechnology certification and teaches undergraduate BIO 199 as well as an elective course for graduate and medical students during the fall quarter MED 234 entitled "Practical Histopathology in mouse models of human disease".

Click here to contact me

Page 'Breadcrumb' Navigation:

External Resources: