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Neurology and Neurosurgery

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The Laboratories

Brain Tumor

At the brain tumor laboratory, Henry Brem, M.D. and Betty Tyler, along with more than 350 trainees, have conducted scientific research, contributed to scientific literature, amended clinical practice, and illuminated new pathways for improving clinical outcomes.

The laboratory has advanced the understanding of gene therapy, angiogenesis, intracranial implantation of biodegradable polymers to treat malignant glioma, tumor genetics and proteomics, microchip drug delivery and drug resistance studies. Dr. Brem and his colleagues have designed and led many multi-institutional clinical trials to improve and expand the range of therapeutic options for patients with brain tumors.

Brain Tumor Cancer Genetics

Chetan Bettegowda, M.D., explores the genetic underpinnings that drive the pathogenesis of a variety of primary central nervous system neoplasms. He is interested in exploiting genetic changes for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. He is currently working on understanding the extreme responders and extreme clinical phenotypes of brain and spinal cord tumors to identify factors that may modulate responses to therapy.

Immunotherapy for Neuro-Oncology

The laboratory is focused on a range of immunotherapeutic approaches to treating brain tumors.

In addition to focusing on checkpoint inhibitor therapy, the lab is also investigating innovative approaches to stimulating the immune system to target cancer cells. The lab seeks to both identify novel treatment methods and also characterize the underlying changes in the immune system that make for effective cancer treatment.

The lab is involved in multiple clinical trials meant to translate their basic science and translational research to the clinic to help curb the growth of brain tumors and improve patients’ quality of life. Several immunotherapy clinical trials have come from the scientific work of this laboratory.

Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery

Directed by Alan R. Cohen, M.D., Carson-Spiro Professor of Neurosurgery, Oncology and Pediatrics, the laboratory is focused on developing novel instruments and approaches to enhance the safety and efficacy of neurosurgical procedures. Current investigations include work in microsurgery, endoscopy, image guidance and robotic surgery. A cadaveric Skills Lab offers training in neurosurgical techniques.

Pediatric Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy

The team headed by Shenandoah “Dody” Robinson, M.D., professor of neurosurgery, neurology and pediatrics, studies perinatal brain injury and repair. Employing developmentally age-appropriate models, the lab investigates neurological consequences of extremely preterm birth, including cerebral palsy, chronic pain, cognitive and behavioral impairment, epilepsy and posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus of prematurity.

Using primarily endogenous neuroreparative cytokines with high translational potential, the researchers focus on how to prevent and mitigate chronic neurological deficits, and the development of serum and imaging biomarkers. The lab also investigates related neurological disorders, such as acquired symptomatic hydrocephalus from hemorrhage, infection and trauma.


Under the guidance and mentorship of Mark Luciano, M.D., director of the Cerebral Fluid Center, the laboratory is developing benchtop models that continuously pass patient-derived cerebrospinal fluid through a variety of flow-diversion technologies as a way to better understand the interaction between cerebrospinal fluid and vascular systems.

Relevant in vivo models developed in the laboratory test new and innovative technologies that can improve the lives of patients at risk of complications related to hydrocephalus. Collaboration between Eric Jackson, M.D. in the laboratory and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has led to a novel model of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt catheter for the prevention of local astrocyte proliferation and shunt occlusion.

Spinal Fusion

The Spinal Fusion Laboratory, directed by Timothy Witham, M.D., is committed to advancing promising therapies to improve patient outcomes in spinal surgery. One key area of research focuses on the elimination of fusion failure, also known as pseudoarthrosis.

Witham and his colleagues study various strategies for improving spinal fusion outcomes, including delivery of various growth factors and biological agents, stem cell therapies and tissue engineering approaches. The laboratory is also interested in problems concerning overall spine health. In particular, the group is exploring therapies to improve vertebral bone quality in patients with conditions such as osteoporosis and radiation-induced osteonecrosis that may require future spinal fusion procedures.


Chordoma research is led by a comprehensive team including Gary Gallia, M.D., director of the Neurosurgery Skull Base Tumor Center. The laboratory focuses on developing new therapies for brain and skull base tumors, and has established the first primary skull base chordoma xenograft mouse model. The team is also exploring high throughput drug screening using the chordoma model, and the molecular pathways responsible for tumor maintenance and growth.

Spinal Metastasis

The Spinal Metastasis Laboratory is developing new therapies and repurposing previously FDA-approved therapies to combat metastases to the spine. This lab is also investigating the molecular pathways that allow primary cancer cells to migrate to and invade the spine. Clinical research in the lab consists of predictive analytics to assess risk factors, complications and prognosis for patients undergoing spine surgery. The lab has developed well-cited patient scoring systems in spinal oncology and spinal deformity surgery.

Spinal Innovations

Nicholas Theodore, M.D., the Donlin M. Long Professor of Neurosurgery, leads a team that focuses on neurotrauma, neuronavigation in spine surgery, robotic-assisted surgery and spinal pathophysiology. Translational research in the lab using large animal models of spinal cord injury assess clinically translatable methods of acute neural decompression following traumatic injury. Theodore co-directs the Carnegie Center for Surgical Innovation, alongside Jeffrey Siewerdsen, Ph.D., working closely with biomedical engineers to design novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools in spinal surgery and spinal cord injury. Clinical research applies recent technological advancements in the field, such as robotic assistance and image guidance, to facilitate safer surgery. Genetic research in the lab is identifying predisposing factors for degenerative spinal conditions and developing targeted treatment for post-operative pain.


Vascular research led by Rafael Tamargo, M.D., the Walter E. Dandy Professor of Neurosurgery, explores treatment of aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, cavernous malformations, and arteriovenous fistulas of the brain and spinal cord. Basic science research has focused on endothelial cell-leukocyte interactions (inflammation) after subarachnoid hemorrhage and identifying drugs that might inhibit this inflammatory response as well as the narrowing of blood vessels.

Other Neurosurgery Laboratories

In addition to the Hunterian laboratory, the Department of Neurosurgery has several other major research laboratory programs, such as:

Join the Hunterian Neurosurgical Research Laboratory

Interested applicants should send an updated CV and a cover letter to Betty Tyler at

Donate to the Hunterian Neurosurgical Research Laboratory

Visit Charitable Giving for Neurosurgery and specify the program or researcher you would like to support.