Academic Health Center
Stay Connected

Trigeminal neuralgia surgery gives patients their lives back

Try to imagine a pain so excruciating that some patients have even told physicians they’d contemplated ending their life to alleviate the suffering. Sadly, this is the type of pain characteristic of trigeminal neuralgia (TN).

Known as the suicide disease, TN is a painful disorder that affects the trigeminal nerve, the nerve primarily responsible for sensations felt in the face.

Patients battling TN experience occasional, sporadic or constant pain in the face that makes everyday tasks like talking, smiling, shaving, eating, and brushing your teeth unbearable. In some cases, even a light breeze against the face can result in terrible pain.

Read more

Renowned brain tumor pioneer John Ohlfest, Ph.D., dies after his own battle with cancer

It’s a sad time for the University of Minnesota community this week. John Ohlfest, Ph.D., a researcher with the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, and first recipient of the Hedberg Family/Children’s Cancer Research Fund Endowed Chair in Brain Tumor Research, passed away on Monday, January 21, 2013, after a battle with malignant melanoma.  He was 35 years old.   He is survived by his wife, Karen, and their two children.

Ohlfest, the director of the Neurosurgery Gene Therapy Program, and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, was a recognized pioneer in the treatment of brain tumors using both gene therapy and novel immunotherapies in an attempt to boost a patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer.

In recent years, his work on brain tumors in dogs also gained national prominence.  Ohlfest relied on dogs as a model to test the safety and effectiveness of new treatments prior to their implementation in humans.  This model not only served to be more relevant than testing in mice but also gave many family pets a chance for cure.   Most importantly, this work gave real hope to patients with brain tumors refractory to conventional therapies.

Ohlfest explored multiple strategies to tackle brain tumors.  While his work focused on the development of customized vaccines that would stimulate a patient’s own immune cells to destroy the tumor stem cells (the ‘parent’ cells responsible for tumor growth), he also looked at ways to alter the environment of the brain tumor cells, making it less resistant to therapy.  He also was instrumental in the development of new devices to better deliver chemotherapy to the tumor itself.

Since his original research, Ohlfest had also started working toward a “vaccine” for three other types of recurrent brain tumors: glioblastoma, medulloblastoma and ependymoma.

Read more

The OR of the future is here today

iPads, iPhones, laptop computers and more. No, this isn’t an electronics store; it’s an operating room (OR) at the University of Minnesota.

Today’s OR’s look a little bit different than what you might have seen in the past. The standard OR tools are still in use today, of course, but other technological advances are steadily making their way into practice.

Andrew Grande, M.D., an assistant professor within the Department of Neurosurgery – and an electronics and technology enthusiast – is finding new ways to use everyday gadgets to improve the most complicated and challenging neurosurgeries. In doing so, he’s also providing his patients with the best available treatment options.

Read more

Minnesota Medical Foundation provides an update on the latest neuroscience advancements at the U of M

The latest issue of the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Neurosciences News publication is now available in print and online.

Neurosciences News is a publication for those who support brain, nerve and muscle disease research, education and care at the University of Minnesota.

Click here to see a snapshot of the news and updates from the latest issue.

Read more