Otolaryngology
Head & Neck Surgery

OHNS Research Programs

Basic & Translational Science Research Program

Stanford OHNS research laboratories are at the forefront of innovative bioscience and technology in the field. Under the leadership of research division chief Professor Stefan Heller basic, translational, and clinical research programs have been developed which encompass all of the sub-specialties of OHNS. The cardinal goal of Stanford OHNS is to conduct research on issues relevant to human disease. Our culture seeks to maximize collaboration among basic scientists, engineers, and clinicians to address important translational research questions.

 

Basic Science Research Program

While our research activities span the field of OHNS, a special emphasis is placed on the goal of curing deafness through regenerative means. A number of investigators use their specialized skills to pursue differing strategies which converge on the shared goal of restoring hearing to the deafened cochlea. Examples of additional important research priorities include: development of innovative therapies to target stem cells in head & neck cancer; regenerating paranasal sinus mucosa, inventing microscopic and endoscopic surgical simulation tools, and unraveling the mysteries of how the middle and inner ear functions. A more complete roster of research programs and detailed descriptions may be found by navigating to the individual researcher’s websites.

A spirit of collaboration is woven into the fabric of Stanford bioscience and technology. Within the department, our community of basic scientists and engineers collaborates with surgeon-scientists to address scientific as well as translational questions of mutual interest. Outside of the department, much of our research is interdisciplinary in nature and draws upon the expertise of colleagues engaged in a wide spectrum of research across the Stanford campus. A number of our faculty hold joint appointments in other basic science and clinical departments.

 

Translational Research Emphasis

Our philosophy is that advances in clinical medicine are most likely to occur when scientists and clinicians work together toward a common purpose. To help integrate our basic science community with our clinical programs, we have recruited 4 scientist-surgeons who spend at least half of their time in bench research. This cadre of highly talented clinician investigators have established strong bridges which help to focus our research on issues relevant to alleviating human disease.

In conjunction with other faculty members, these scientist-surgeons catalyze clinical investigations such as the evaluation of cochlear implants to developmentally disabled deaf children, exploration of novel cancer therapies, adoption of endoscopic transnasal techniques to inaccessible intracranial tumors, and creation of instrumentation and techniques for transoral robotic surgery. They have an important role in providing mentorship for clinical trainees seeking to acquire research skills.

 

Research Facilities

Our laboratory facilities are located on the Stanford medical campus and total approximately 12,000 sqf, located on the first and second floors of the Edwards building with a satellite lab located in the Stanford Stem Cell Institute. We are in the early stages of planning a new laboratory building (FIM1) in which otolaryngology research will be an anchor tenant.

Our laboratories are supported by an advanced imaging center with fluorescence, 2-photon, and four confocal microscopes dedicated for routine and specialized imaging on fixed and live cells or tissue. Our animal hearing testing center consists of soundproof rooms with apparatus for basic and advanced auditory function measurements. Individual laboratories are equipped for molecular, biochemical, as well as cell biological and electrophysiology work at the cellular and whole animal level. Stanford-wide support facilities for mouse transgenic technology, electron microscopy, FACS, human embryonic stem cells resource, various small apparatus design and construction shops, etc are available on campus in close distance. The department’s imaging and animal hearing test facilities are support by an NIH P30 core grant.

 

Research Training

Our laboratories host a large number of students (graduate, undergraduate, and medical), postdoctoral research fellows, and clinical trainees. They conduct mentored research in collaboration with departmental faculty, they participate in seminars and didactic programs.

Our research trainees also have the opportunity to participate in the enriched educational opportunities in our Interdisciplinary Network of Research Training at Stanford (INORTAS). The INORTAS program includes training from faculty in neurobiology, developmental biology, molecular and cellular physiology, engineering, and the stem cell institute.

To encourage the acquisition of research skills, Stanford medical students, OHNS residents, and sub-specialty fellows spend dedicated time assigned to our laboratories. Our PROFICIENT (promoting future investigator clinicians in ENT) program is designed to provide augmented research experience to enable future clinician investigators to develop scientific independence just prior to their first faculty appointment.

The department has several specialized educational facilities. The Perkins microsurgery training laboratory has ten stations to help scientists and clinicians develop microdissection skills. The department’s haptically re-enforced surgical simulation facility supplements the splendid facilities for simulated and immersive learning in Stanford’s state-of-the-art Learning and Knowledge Center.

 

Annual Retreats

Our annual research retreat is held each fall. In this day-long event, the entire department (basic science and clinical) “stands down” from routine activity to attend presentations about the progress in research programs across the department and participate in discussions on research topics. The core goal of this retreat is to catalyze formation of new ideas and to engender a collaborative spirit.

In the spring, we hold an annual resident research day, which is a juried competition in which prizes are awarded for excellence and originality.

 

Funding Our Research Programs

With a basic science research team of some forty individuals and numerous clinician investigators, our current annual departmental research expenditures exceed $5 million USD. These costs are funded primarily by extramural grants, income from endowment, and philanthropy.

 

Philanthropy

Philanthropic support is vital to the success of our many missions. For such an ambitious research effort to sustain a high level of productivity is demanding in terms of people, materials, and services. The support provided via generous individuals is an essential supplement to our core funding from extramural grants (federal and foundations).

Donors may contribute to laboratories, individual investigators, or specific areas of research (eg finding cures for deafness, novel therapies for head & neck cancer, and remedies for sinonasal disease). These resources help us to accelerate realization of our ambitious research goals. They also enable us to expand our programs by recruiting additional faculty and opening up new areas of investigation.

 

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