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Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

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Research and Clinical Trials

Otolaryngology research at Johns Hopkins

The experts in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery have dedicated themselves to advancing their field through thoughtful and groundbreaking research. Each of our eight research groups works diligently to constantly learn more about their topic and educated the medical community about their findings.

Clinical Trials

The following clinical trials are currently being offered by the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

  • Agrawal Lab

    The Agrawal Lab is focused on the medical and surgical treatment of otologic and neurotologic conditions. Research is focused on the vestibular system (the inner ear balance system), and how the function of the vestibular system changes with aging. Particular focus is given to study how age-related changes in vestibular function influence mobility disability and fall risk in older individuals.

    Research Areas: cognition, visuospatial ability, vertigo, aging, balance, vestibular system

  • Allen Lab

    The Allen Lab focuses on immunologic aspects of cancer development and progression, with a focus on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, the most common form of head and neck cancer. Work also aims to translate key knowledge learned from our investigation into anti-tumor immunity to other diseases in otolaryngology, including inflammatory and infectious disorders.

    Research Areas: anti-tumor immunity, otolaryngology, cancer, head and neck cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Atul Bedi Lab

    The Atul Bedi Lab in the Head and Neck cancer research program provides fundamental insights into the molecular determinants and mechanisms by which tumor cells evade death signals entrained by the immune system and anticancer agents. Their recent studies show that tumor-induced immune tolerance limits the in vivo anti-tumor efficacy of tumor-targeted antibodies and that the tumor cell-autonomous expression of transforming growth factor-b (TGF-b) is a key molecular determinant of the de novo or acquired resistance of cancers to EGFR-targeted antibody. Their laboratory has developed novel bi-functional antibody-based strategies to simultaneously counteract immune tolerance in the tumor microenvironment and to enhance the anti-tumor efficacy of targeted antibody therapies for the treatment of cancer.

    Research Areas: targeted antibody therapies, transforming growth factor-b, cancer, head and neck cancer, tumor-targeted antibodies

  • Cochlear Neurotransmission Group

    The Cochlear Neurotransmission Group studies the generation and propagation of neural signals in the inner ear. Our laboratories use biophysical, electrophysiological, molecular biological and histological methods to determine fundamental molecular mechanisms by which neurotransmitters are released from primary sensory cells ('hair cells') to excite second order neurons carrying information to the brain. We apply these same techniques to study inhibitory feedback produced by brain neurons that project to and regulate the sensitivity of the cochlea.

    Research Areas: vestibular disorders, neurotology/otology

  • Head and Neck Cancer Clinical Trials and Tissue Bank

    The Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Tissue Bank enrolls patients and collects research specimens from Head and Neck Tumor patients, both cancerous and benign, with particular focus on Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer patients. It provides specimens to researchers both within the institution and outside.

    Research Areas: benign, malignant, cancer, tumor, head and neck tumors, Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Laboratory of Vestibular NeuroAdaptation

    The Laboratory of Vestibular NeuroAdaptation investigates mechanisms of gaze stability in people with loss of vestibular sensation. A bulk of our research investigates motor learning in the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) using different types of error signals. In addition, we investigate the synergistic relationship between the vestibular and saccadic oculomotor systems as trainable strategies for gaze stability. We are particularly interested in developing novel technologies to assess and deliver improved rehabilitation outcomes. We are validating a hand-held computer tablet for assessment of sensorimotor function and participating in a clinical trial comparing traditional vestibular rehabilitation against a device developed in our laboratory that can unilaterally or bilaterally strengthen the VOR.

    Members of the lab include physical therapists, physicians, engineers, statisticians and post-doctoral fellows. The laboratory is supported by generous grant funding from NASA, the NIH, the DOD and grateful patients

    Research Areas: gaze stability, vestibular sensation, vestibulo-ocular reflex, rehabilitation, sensorimotor functions

  • Machine Biointerface Lab

    Dr. Fridman's research group invents and develops bioelectronics for Neuroengineering and Medical Instrumentation applications. We develop innovative medical technology and we also conduct the necessary biological studies to understand how the technology could be effective and safe for people.

    Our lab is currently focused on developing the "Safe Direct Current Stimulation" technology, or SDCS. Unlike the currently available commercial neural prosthetic devices, such as cochlear implants, pacemakers, or Parkinson's deep brain stimulators that can only excite neurons, SDCS can excite, inhibit, and even sensitize them to input. This new technology opens a door to a wide range of applications that we are currently exploring along with device development: e.g. peripheral nerve stimulation for suppressing neuropathic pain, vestibular nerve stimulation to correct balance disorders, vagal nerve stimulation to suppress an asthma attack, and a host of other neuroprosthetic applications.

    Medical Instrumentation MouthLab is a "tricorder" device that we invented here in the Machine Biointerface Lab. The device currently obtains all vital signs within 60s: Pulse rate, breathing rate, temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, electrocardiogram, and FEV1 (lung function) measurement. Because the device is in the mouth, it has access to saliva and to breath and we are focused now on expanding its capability to obtaining measures of dehydration and biomarkers that could be indicative of a wide range of internal disorders ranging from stress to kidney failure and even lung cancer.

    Research Areas: medical instruments, bioelectricities, neuroengineering, nerve stimulation

  • Ocular Motor Physiology Laboratory

    Our research is directed toward how the brain controls the movements of the eyes (including eye movements induced by head motion) using studies in normal human beings, patients and experimental animals. The focus is on mechanisms underlying adaptive ocular motor control. More specifically, what are mechanisms by which the brain learns to cope with the changes associated with normal development and aging as well as the damage associated with disease and trauma? How does the brain keep its eye movement reflexes properly calibrated? Our research strategy is to make accurate, quantitative measures of eye movements in response to precisely controlled stimuli and then use the analytical techniques of the control systems engineer to interpret the findings.

    Research areas: 1) learning and compensation for vestibular disturbances that occur either within the labyrinth or more centrally within the brain, 2) the mechanisms by which the brain maintains correct alignment of the eyes to prevent diplopia and strabismus, and 3) the role of ocular proprioception in localizing objects in space for accurate eye-hand coordination.

    Research Areas: diplopia, Labyrinth, eye movement, strabismus, vestibular

  • Vestibular NeuroEngineering Lab

    Research in the Vestibular NeuroEngineering Lab (VNEL) focuses on restoring inner ear function through “bionic” electrical stimulation, inner ear gene therapy, and enhancing the central nervous system’s ability to learn ways to use sensory input from a damaged inner ear. VNEL research involves basic and applied neurophysiology, biomedical engineering, clinical investigation and population-based epidemiologic studies. We employ techniques including single-unit electrophysiologic recording; histologic examination; 3-D video-oculography and magnetic scleral search coil measurements of eye movements; microCT; micro MRI; and finite element analysis. Our research subjects include computer models, circuits, animals and humans. For more information about VNEL, click here.
    VNEL is currently recruiting subjects for two first-in-human clinical trials:
    1) The MVI Multichannel Vestibular Implant Trial involves implantation of a “bionic” inner ear stimulator intended to partially restore sensation of head movement. Without that sensation, the brain’s image- and posture-stabilizing reflexes fail, so affected individuals suffer difficulty with blurry vision, unsteady walking, chronic dizziness, mental fogginess and a high risk of falling. Based on designs developed and tested successfully in animals over the past the past 15 years at VNEL, the system used in this trial is very similar to a cochlear implant (in fact, future versions could include cochlear electrodes for use in patients who also have hearing loss). Instead of a microphone and cochlear electrodes, it uses gyroscopes to sense head movement, and its electrodes are implanted in the vestibular labyrinth. For more information on the MVI trial, click here.
    2) The CGF166 Inner Ear Gene Therapy Trial involves inner ear injection of a genetically engineered DNA sequence intended to restore hearing and balance sensation by creating new sensory cells (called “hair cells”). Performed at VNEL with the support of Novartis and through a collaboration with the University of Kansas and Columbia University, this is the world’s first trial of inner ear gene therapy in human subjects. Individuals with severe or profound hearing loss in both ears are invited to participate. For more information on the CGF166 trial, click here.

    Research Areas: neuroengineering, audiology, multichannel vestibular prosthesis, balance disorders, balance, vestibular, prosthetics, cochlea, vestibular implant

  • Vestibular Neurophysiology Laboratory

    The mission of the laboratory of vestibular neurophysiology is to advance the understanding of how the body perceives head motion and maintains balance - a complex and vital function of everyday life. Although much is known about the vestibular part of the inner ear, key aspects of how the vestibular receptors perceive, process and report essential information are still mysterious. Increasing our understanding of this process will have tremendous impact on quality of life of patients with vestibular disorders, who often suffer terrible discomfort from dizziness and vertigo.

    The laboratory group's basic science research focuses on the vestibulo-ocular reflexes - the reflexes that move the eyes in response to motions of the head. They do this by studying the vestibular sensors and nerve cells that provide input to the reflexes; by studying eye movements in humans and animals with different vestibular disorders, by studying effects of electrical stimulation of vestibular sensors, and by using mathematical models to describe these reflexes. Researchers are particularly interested in abnormalities of the brain's inability to compensate for vestibular disorders.

    Research Areas: vestibular disorders, vertigo, balance, dizziness