The Department of Neurosurgery is involved in numerous basic, translational, and clinical research projects throughout all subspecialties of neurosurgery. Research at the Department of Neurosurgery is designed as an integrated program comprised of basic research using rodent model systems of disease as well as surgically retrieved human specimens, therapy development and translational and clinical research with a focus in the areas of epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, neuropathic pain, neuromodulation, and cancer. Metabolism and adenosine is a common theme that allows synergistic interactions between different research programs. In addition, we conduct noninvasive neuroimaging studies that involve both patients and healthy individuals. The goal of those studies is to identify imaging changes that can help unlock how pathologies affect the brain network and to use this information to develop imaging markers to predict the development of pathologies (e.g. posttraumatic epilepsy) and to monitor their responsiveness to treatment longitudinally. The following scheme provides an overview of ongoing research directions within the department and their interactions:
The following research programs are established at the Department of Neurosurgery:
Epilepsy research at the department focuses on biochemical and epigenetic mechanisms underlying epilepsy and its development, and the development of metabolism-based therapeutic strategies to prevent epilepsy and its comorbidities. Ongoing research projects:
- Ketogenic Diet and Adenosine: Epigenetics and Antiepileptogenesis; NINDS R01NS065957
- The role of adenosine in sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP); NINDS R01NS103740
- Development of small molecule drugs for the prevention of epilepsy
- Investigation of the role of glutamatergic neurons and GABAergic interneurons in the hippocampus in the generation and spread of seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of morbidity and disability worldwide. Research focuses on helping the injured brain to regenerate and regain lost function, and to prevent serious sequelae of traumatic brain injury, such as epilepsy. Ongoing research projects:
- Using adenosine based strategies to enhance neurogenesis after injury
- Reprogramming of astrocytes of the glial scar
- Prevention of posttraumatic epilepsy
- Interactions between traumatic brain injury and cardiac and respiratory function.
Reynolds Family Spine Research Laboratory
The Reynolds Family Spine Research Laboratory aims to improve the functional outcomes of chronic and acute spinal cord injury and central nervous system diseases that can lead to paralysis. The Laboratory collaborates with other investigators in the fields of immunology, proteomics, and neurobiology of disease. The team, consisting of co-directors Robert F. Heary, MD and Stella Elkabes, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellows, graduate, and medical students, and staff members integrate interdisciplinary skills and experience to identify targets for therapeutic interventions and to translate the findings from the bench to the bedside.
Neuropathic Pain Research
Neuropathic pain is a debilitating condition associated with different pathologies including chronic spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and peripheral nerve injury. The goal of neuropathic pain research in the department is to discover novel targets and to develop new approaches for the effective alleviation of pain.
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory, demyelinating disorder that also causes neuronal dysfunction and axonal damage. Current research in the department focuses on the delineation of molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal dysfunction and axonal injury, and the role of inflammation in the modulation of such mechanisms in the spinal cord.
Our brain is a network. It consists of spatially distributed, but functionally linked regions that continuously share information with each other. Interestingly, recent advances in the acquisition and analysis of neuroimaging data have catalyzed the exploration of both structural and functional connectivity in the human brain. The advantage of neuroimaging techniques is that they are non-invasive.
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey’s physician-scientists engages in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, outsmarting cancer with science. Research is currently being conducted in areas including population science, precision medicine, systems biology, oncogenesis, tumor virology and immunology, autophagy, drug development and resistance, the relationship between cellular and genetic alterations and tumor development, cancer control and prevention, bioinformatics, and cancer genomics.
The department is an active participant in the study of new frontiers in Neurological Surgery. We have been leaders in bringing innovation and the next generation of Neurological care to New Jersey through a wide array of clinical trials. Clinical trials are a vital part of any neurosurgical practice because they provide patients with access to cutting edge devices and care that is not available at most other neurological surgery practices. Our dedicated team of physicians, researchers, nurses, and administrative staff will ensure that you are given access to these valuable tools that can provide innovative care for you years before they are accessible to the general public.