Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care

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Perioperative Neurosciences and Pain

Subthemes in this research area include:

  • Initiations and mechanisms of apoptosis
  • Biomarkers for CNS injury
  • Calcium homeostasis in neurons
  • Cellular metabolic effects of inhaled anesthetics
  • Neuroprotection via gene therapy, small molecules
  • Anesthetics, cognitive dysfunction and neurodegenerative disorders
  • Pain

Perioperative medicine carries a risk for neural injury via many mechanisms, but has the unique advantage of temporal predictability. Mechanisms of and strategies for neuroprotection comprise a rapidly expanding focus of several of the basic and clinical investigators in the department.

For example, Andrew Kofke, MD is exploring genetic risk factors and biomarkers for CNS damage in patients undergoing cardiac and major vascular surgery.

Similarly, Albert Cheung, MD and Stuart Weiss, MD a re developing biomarkers and clinical methods for preserving the spinal cord during aortic aneurism surgery.

Roderic Eckenhoff, MD is exploring whether specific anesthetic protein interactions might contribute to synaptic injury and neuronal loss in progressive neurodegenerating diseases, such as Alzheimer's. Together with Maryellen Fazen Eckenhoff, Rod is investigating the interaction between anesthesia, surgery, neuroinflammation, and chronic neurodegenerative disorders.

William Armstead, PhD's research focuses on characterizing mechanisms important in the control of cerebral hemodynamics under physiologic and pathologic conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, and cerebral hypoxia/ischemia, particularly in the newborn. Current projects focus on interactions between the NMDA receptor and plasminogen activators after TBI, optimizing the efficacy/toxicity ratio of tPA, the only FDA approved treatment for stroke and translational research concerning the roles of sex and age in outcome after pediatric TBI.

Exploring a novel potential mechanism of anesthetic neurotoxicity, Huafeng Wei, MD, PhD studies the effects of anesthetics on calcium regulation, particularly the IP3 receptor.

Max Kelz, MD, PhD is studying the overlap between the neurobiology of sleep and anesthesia.

Renyu Liu, MD, PhD, is investigating the molecular interactions between opioids and their receptors using multiple approaches, including protein model and modeling, docking and molecular dynamic simulations, receptor engineering, thermodynamics, and high resolution structures.

Michael Ashburn, MD, the Director of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care is conducting NIH funded clinical trials into novel therapies for chronic pain.

Gordon Barr, PhD is a developmental psychobiologist who studies how nervous system maturation mediates the rapid changes in the behavior that occurs in development. He studies the mechanisms that mediate reinforcement, pain and stress, including studies on drugs that modulate these mechanisms.

Jiabin Liu, MD, is determining, with clinical studies, which form of anesthesia, regional or general, results in better outcomes after orthopedic surgery. In the lab, Jiabin is investigating how to prolong peripheral nerve blocks.

David Eckmann, PhD, MD is studying the neurobiology of cerebrovascular gas embolism and the prevention of CNS injury by administration of intravascular surfactants and perfluorocarbons.

Rita Valentino, PhD, head of the Stress Neurobiology Group, and colleagues, Sheryl Beck and Seema Bhatnagar, are studying the effects of stressful stimuli on brain function and behavior.

Raymond Roginski, MD, PhD has discovered a novel gene, GRINL, that may play a role in glutamatergic signaling.

Finally, Andrew Ochroch, MD is studying the genetic and gender basis of surgical pain in thoracic surgery patients.

This theme is marked by strong collaborations with the departments of Neurology, Radiology, Surgery, Neurosurgery, Biochemistry/Biophysics, Pharmacology, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the Institute on Aging and the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases Research. State of the art expression, detection, and imaging capabilities have been implemented to characterize and quantitate results from a wide variety of in vitro and in vivo experimental protocols.

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