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Professor of Pediatrics Division Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology

Dr. Sylvester is a physician/scientist specializing in the field of Pediatric Gastroenterology.

Education and Training

MD, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Perú.
Residency in Pediatrics, Children’s Medical Center of Brooklyn, SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn, Kings County Hospital
Fellowship, The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Pediatric Gastroenterology


Dr. Sylvester is a translational scientist whose research interests include mucosal immunology, vitamin D and bone metabolism in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). His expertise is in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) with a focus on how chronic intestinal inflammation affects the skeleton in growing children.

His lab conducts human translational studies grounded on clinical observations in children with IBD and formulates hypotheses based on these findings, which are tested in mouse models and cell culture systems. The aim of his lab is to uncover pathogenic pathways that can be targeted for new therapies.

Crohn’s disease can affect normal skeletal development and linear growth in children. Children with Crohn’s disease can have significant deficits in bone mineral density, alterations in bone geometry and growth stunting.

Dr. Sylvester’s lab is investigating the use of Osteoprotegerin (OPG) as part of the innate immune response to infection in the lining of the colon. OPG slows down the formulation and development of osteoclasts, a type of bone cell that breaks down bone tissue in the body. Dr. Sylvester’s group has discovered that the colonic epithelium exhibits robust expression of OPG, and that colonic expression of OPG tracks with disease severity of ulcerative colitis, a type of IBD. They have also demonstrated that mice that lack OPG are resistant to experimental colitis and are investigating ways to block OPG activity in the lumen of the colon as a new therapeutic strategy to treat colitis in humans.

Francisco Sylvester, MD
  • Address

    Pediatric Gastroenterology

    247 MacNider Hall

    CB# 7229

    Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7229