Neurosurgery researchers at ASRI provide excellent examples of how translational research can lead to dramatically improved outcomes for patients with conditions such as obesity and herniated discs.
Donald Whiting, MD, and Michael Oh, MD, WPAHS neurosurgeons and researchers, are on the forefront of using deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat morbid obesity — a condition that affects approximately 9 million adult Americans and contributes to a host of health problems including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
“With gastric bypass surgery or banding, surgeons make a normally functioning stomach smaller,” said Dr. Whiting. “My colleagues and I asked, ‘Why not readjust the hypothalamus, the weight thermostat in the brain that controls intake, hunger and metabolism?’ We saw the potential of using deep brain stimulation as a way to readjust that hunger-causing thermostat.” Drs. Whiting and Oh are testing various electric parameters to find the exact setting that regulates the appetite.
During a DBS procedure, Drs. Whiting and Oh surgically implant a medical device similar to a pacemaker that delivers electrical stimulation to a precisely targeted area of the brain — helping brain circuits to better control abnormal movements.
Dr. Whiting adds that DBS may also hold promise for treating a variety of psychiatric disorders and addictive behaviors, including smoking and substance abuse.
In addition to conducting neuromodulation studies, ASRI’s neurosurgery researchers are on the leading edge of spinal biomechanical research. Until recently, surgeons have treated deteriorating spinal discs by removing the herniated discs and fusing the spine. However, patients who undergo this procedure often experience a loss of motion in certain parts of their spine. Under the direction of Bolye Cheng, PhD, a nationally-recognized neuroscientist who serves as Director of the AGH Neuroscience Institute’s Neurosurgery, Spine and Biomechanics Laboratory, researchers are assessing new disc replacement technologies, artificial facet joints and flexible rods that can reconstruct the spine while preserving motion.
Pictured at right: Front (L-R) – Boyle Cheng PhD, Diane Cantella, Lynn Fletcher. Back (L-R) – Matt Yeager, Julie Young, Kathy Carnegie, Daniel Cook