Because we deal with some of the most complicated and difficult neurosurgical diseases, we constantly face problems for which there are not definite answers. The neurosurgical research laboratories have developed a focus on stem-cell mediated recovery from various forms of nervous system injury.
Led by David Largaespada, Ph.D., Margaret Harvey Schering Land Grant Chair in Cancer Genetics and Associate Director, Basic Sciences, Masonic Cancer Center; the Brain Tumor Program's leadership team includes Neurosurgery Department Assistant Professor Matthew Hunt, M.D; Christopher Moertel, M.D., Clinical Director of the Pediatric Neuro-oncology Program and Medical Director, Comprehensive Neurofibromatosis Clinic; and William Elmquist, Ph.D., Professor and Department Head of the College of Pharmacy and Director of the Brain Barrier Research Center. The Brain Tumor Program's research portfolio at the University of Minnesota has expanded substantially in recent years. The University of Minnesota is now home to a growing number of laboratories working on basic and applied research for brain tumors. The array of projects includes everything from basic to preclinical to translational/phase I clinical trial research.
The Departments of Neurosurgery and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) recognize the value of neuroanatomical dissection in educating residents. This is both beneficial to teaching and preparing them for surgical procedures that will be done in the operating room and for conducting neuroanatomical research. Together, the departments have agreed to establish a neuroanatomical laboratory to be used for these purposes. In addition, it will serve as a training facility that could be used for local, regional and national courses sponsored by either academic departments or industry, and as a place to do neuroanatomical research. The lab is led by Andrew Grande (Neurosurgery), M.D., and Emiro Caicedo-Granados (ENT), M.D.
Ann Parr's research currently centers around transplanting neural stem cells grown from a patient's own skin into the injured spinal cord. She has an active translational research laboratory at the Stem Cell Institute. She is interested in examining mechanisms of functional recovery using techniques such as histology and immunohistochemistry, cell tracking through magnetic resonance imaging, and animal modeling.
Co-directors Bharathidasan Jagadeesan, M.D., and Andrew Grande, M.D., are focused on identifying novel treatments for stroke using endogenous or exogenous stem cells. Their research has three specific aims. The first is identifying normal neurogenesis in the adult brain and studying ways to manipulate and enhance this normal production of neurons. The second involves using transplanted exogenous stem cells delivered directly to the area of a stroke via a microcatheter in the arteries of the brain. The third involves human clinical trials using stem cells to treat acute stroke.
Walter Low, Ph.D., who directs the neurosurgical research laboratories, has particular expertise in adult multi-potent neural stem cells. His research is focused on using stem cells for treating neurological disorders. Research in the area of cell therapy involves using neural transplants to repair neural connections in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Studies of brain tumors have emphasized developing immunotherapeutic approaches for treating these tumors. Cancer vaccines consisting of cytokines and tumor antigens are used to stimulate cells of the immune system to recognize and destroy tumors within the brain.