Nathan P. Staff, M.D., Ph.D., studies disorders that damage the peripheral nervous system, including motor neurons, either through toxic mechanisms (chemotherapy), degeneration (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or inflammatory mechanisms.
Dr. Staff uses both laboratory model systems and human clinical trials in his research. The long-term goal of Dr. Staff's research is to develop treatments in the laboratory setting and apply them in human clinical trials.
- Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Approximately one-third of cancer patients exposed to chemotherapy develop damage to their peripheral neurons, which can result in long-standing pain and weakness. Using a model system of peripheral neurons in a dish, Dr. Staff and colleagues are teasing apart the molecular mechanisms of this toxic damage to peripheral neurons in order to develop protective strategies to combat this disabling condition.
- Clinical trials in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder with an average life span of two to three years after diagnosis. Dr. Staff and colleagues are leading clinical trials designed to treat this disease. Their strategy uses mesenchymal stem cells derived from patient adipose (fat) tissue that is delivered to the patient's spinal fluid. Additionally, Dr. Staff and colleagues are involved in industry-sponsored multicenter clinical trials for promising drug treatments.
- Inflammatory mechanisms in post-surgical neuropathies. Nerve damage can occur around the time of a surgical procedure and is usually attributed to mechanical damage from stretch, compression or cutting during the surgery. Dr. Staff and colleagues have demonstrated that some of these post-surgical neuropathies are caused by inflammatory mechanisms that may respond to immune therapies. Ongoing studies into post-surgical inflammatory neuropathy may provide novel treatment options for severe neuropathies that were not previously available.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Staff's research into peripheral nervous system damage centers on human disease with significant disability. His research focuses on direct human clinical trials as well as preclinical laboratory mechanistic investigations.