The Department of Neurosurgery has a proud
record of research accomplishments. We have investigated or have been involved with research ranging from the development of Linac Radiosurgery, improving the design of football helmets to reduce traumatic brain injury, transplantation of fetal cells for the amelioration of Parkinsonian symptoms to developing drug and immunology delivery systems to malignant brain tumors. Currently, our research encompasses stem cell research, neuro-oncology and human genetic issues.
Dr. Judith Gault is in the midst of investigating the the genetic componets of treatments for schizophrenia.
Dr Michael Graner’s research focuses on the immunology and biology of brain tumors. From a clinical perspective, he is interested in vaccine design and implementation, which includes the search for appropriate combinations of therapies to enhance immune responses or to downplay the role of tumor-induced immune suppression. He is a patent-holder on a vaccine process that generates a material from tumors that is enriched for a class of proteins called chaperones (sometimes called stress proteins or heat shock proteins). These proteins are potent immune stimulators that also carry antigenic components from the tumor that lead to activated immune responder cells specifically targeting the tumor. This vaccine is a personalized therapy that is made from the patient’s own tumor. We are moving this vaccine towards a clinical trial in both human and canine patients, the latter in conjunction with collaborators at the Animal Cancer Center at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
At a more basic/translational science level, we are also interested in the biologic and immunologic activities of exosomes and microvesicles. These are “tiny fat balls” that are released from most all cell types, but tumor cells are quite prodigious at it. Dr Graner’s group was the first to identify these vesicles from brain tumor cells, and they have also demonstrated their presence in the sera of patients with high grade gliomas. Because exosomes and microvesicles contain a sampling of the lipids, proteins, and RNAs of the tumor cells, the vesicles may be useful as tumor biomarkers found in an accessible compartment, blood. Also, the fat balls have profound influences on immune responses and tumor growth, particularly in terms of modulation of the microenvironment to the benefit of the tumor. We have gathered together an eclectic group of researchers on this campus, and from Colorado State and Colorado School of Mines, to study the biology, biochemistry, and immunology of these vesicles from the atomic level to the level of individual patients.