Research Opportunities for Students

Otolaryngology Faculty

Maie St. John, MD, PhD
Professor and Chair, UCLA Department of Head and Neck Surgery
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: Head and Neck Oncology, salivary gland and thyroid malignancies, bioengineering and translational reserach

Brief summary of project(s):    

My core principle is that we must develop patient-centric transformative team approaches to the care of our patients with cancer through research and education.  My laboratory is centered around translational research with a focus on improving therapies and outcomes for patients with head and neck cancer.  We have forged a very strong collaboration and now a Research Program in Bioengineering and Head and Neck Surgery.  We have designed and synthesized a novel biocompatible modular polymer platform, which serves as a platform to deliver targeted chemoprevention and immunotherapies, thus potentially improving patient treatments.  In addition, while operating on many patients with advanced head and neck cancer, I thought of a new tool to improve the outcome for these patients. I sought to create a device that will provide a more objective way of dictating where to cut around the tumor.  In essence, the surgeon's fingers are attempting to qualitatively assess the elastic moduli of the tissues to determine the margins. An intraoperative instrument to measure/image the mechanical properties of tissues has the potential to significantly improve the sensitivity and accuracy of determining cancer margins as compared to palpating the edges of the tumor.  This will improve patient outcomes by minimizing removal of normal tissue while also ensuring complete tumor resection. In a transdisciplinary collaborative effort, we took advantage of this fact and have now built an instrument that will significantly improve the surgeon's ability to determine margins by quantitatively using the tissue's natural properties.  Our research team is also working to unlock the pathways regulating tumor metastasis.  We are also working to develop screens for patients at risk for HPV+ head and neck cancers, as well as forging new innovations in head and neck cancer personalized vaccine immunotherapy.  Our laboratory is an innovation ecosystem and we welcome all who are committed to creativity and thought as we make the future better for our patients. 


Elliot Abemayor, MD, PhD
Professor-in-Residence
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests:   Head and Neck Surgical Oncology

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Gerald Berke, MD
Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: Laryngology, Voice disorders, Oncology

Brief Summary of Project(s):

My projects include reperfusion studies of human laryngeal transplant donors. Natural history of patients with laryngeal papillomatosis. Development of an objective measure of severity in spasmodic dysphonia patients using video laryngoscopy in conjunction with Dr. Mendelsohn as a co-principal investigator.   Dystonia Coalition Grant aims. 


Keith Blackwell, MD
Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests:   Microvascular and reconstructive surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Dinesh Chhetri, MD
Professor-in-Residence
Vice Chair, Clinical Affairs
Chief, Division of Head and Neck Surgery Olive View Medical Center
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interests: Voice, Airway, and Swallowing Disorders

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Bruce Gerratt, PhD
Professor-in-Residence, Co-Director, Voice Perception Laboratory
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: Voice and motor speech disorders

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Quinton Gopen, MD
Associate Professor-in-Residence
Chief Division of Head and Neck Surgery Harbor-UCLA
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: Neurotology, Skull Base Surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):

Project 1 (Semicircular Canal Dehiscence):

The primary focus of this research is the clinical evaluation of patients with superior semicircular canal dehiscence.   UCLA is currently the worlds largest center for treating this condition and we operate on over 50 patients a year with this diagnosis.   This gives UCLA a unique opportunity to study the condition and gain important insight into the disease.   Projects available include measurements on CT scans in both normal and pathologic cases, clinical data review (i.e. lab values) for correlation with symptoms, and prospective bone analysis studies among others.   These projects are done in joint effort with Dr. Isaac Yang in the Department of Neurosurgery.

Project 2 (Quality Project: Medical Student Education):

The Quality program at UCLA in Head and Neck Surgery has started an initiative for improving medical student education.   This involves creating a Head and Neck syllabus for MS-3 rotating students to assist with their learning while on the rotation.   This is an evolving project and any input and efforts to shape this over time would be welcome.


Michael Holliday, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Residency Program Director, UCLA Head and Neck Surgery
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: General Head and Neck Surgery, Laryngology

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Akira Ishiyama, MD
Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interest: Neurotology

Brief Summary of Projects(s):


Natalie Kadin, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: General Head and Neck Surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Paul A Kedeshian, MD
Associate Clinical Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interest: Head and Neck Oncology

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Gregory Keller, MD
Clinical Professor
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interests: Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Irene A Kim, MD
Assistant Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: Facial reanimation after facial paralysis, facial plastic surgery, microvascular reconstructive surgery, facial trauma, MOHs reconstruction

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Jivianne Lee, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Chief, Division of Head and Neck Surgery Veterans Administration
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: Nasal and Sinus disease, Endoscopic skull base surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Jennifer Long, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor-in-Residence
Primary Interests: Voice, Airway, Swallowing disorders
Email: [email protected]

Brief Summary of Project(s):

Regenerative medicine in otolaryngology.

The overarching goal of this lab is to develop cell-based or cell-derived techniques to improve voice and swallowing. Many patients develop difficulties in these quality-of-life domains after treatment for head and neck cancer. The lab uses in vivo models for cell-based implants. Functional, structural, and molecular analysis of the vocal cords or tongue is then performed.

The lab is suitable for residents or medical students with some prior experience in bench research.


Abie Mendelsohn, MD
Assistant Professor-in-Residence
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interests: Transoral Laser and Transoral Robotic Surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Vishad Nabili, MD
Associate Professor in Residence Head and Neck Surgery
Vice Chair, Academic Affairs
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interests: Facial Plastic Surgery, MOHs Reconstruction

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Eddie Ramirez, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests:General Head and Neck Surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Jeffrey Rawnsley, MD
Associate Clinical Professor
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interests:Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Joel Sercarz, MD
Professor-in-Residence
Director Head and Neck Surgery UCLA Santa Monica Hospital
Email:[email protected]
Primary Interest:Head and Neck Oncology, Thyroid and Parathyroid

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Nina Shapiro, MD
Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interest: Pediatric otolaryngology

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Travis Shiba, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interest: Voice, Airway and Swallowing, Nasal and Sinus Surgery, Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Jeffrey Suh, MD
Associate Professor-in-Residence
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interest:   Nasal and sinus disease, Head and Neck Oncology

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Marilene Wang, MD
Professor-in-Residence
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interest:   Head and Neck Oncology, Nasal and Sinus Disease

Brief Summary of Project(s):

Project 1:An exploratory study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of APG-157 as an adjuvant therapy for patients with head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) of the oral cavity. Funding: Aveta Biomics, Inc.

Step 1 of the trial has been completed.   This was a 24 hour study of APG-157 (a turmeric/curcumin pastille) vs. placebo in 24 oral cancer and control subjects.   Saliva and blood were collected prior to, and 1, 2, 3, and 24 hours following ingestion of drug.   Serum was analyzed for absorption and presence of curcumin and metabolites.   Saliva supernatant and pellet were analyzed for changes in 9 cytokines.   Statistical analysis is currently being performed.

Step 2 of the trial will involve oral/oropharyngeal cancer patients who are scheduled to undergo surgery.   They will be randomized to receive APG-157 (100 or 200 mg) vs. placebo for a 3 week course prior to their surgery.   Blood and saliva will be collected prior to and each week during treatment, as well as one week after treatment.   At the time of surgery, tumor specimen will be harvested.   Blood, saliva, and tumor tissue will be analyzed for cytokines (GM-CSF, TNFα, IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-10, IL-12 p70, IL-2, IL-6 and IL-8).   Salivary cells will be assayed for the microbial content using the 16S ribosomal RNA sequence.   The pre and post-treatment tumor specimens will also undergo immunohistochemical analysis.   Expression of IL-8, Bmi-1, p16 (cytoplasmic vs. nuclear), NFkB, stem cell markers (CD44, ALDH) and macrophage marker CD68 will be assessed and compared between pre- and post-treatment tumor tissue.   Renal and hepatic toxicity will be assessed by serum chemistries before, during, and after treatment.   EKGs will be performed prior to, during and after treatment as well, to determine cardiac toxicity.

 

Project 2: Gigaxonin in head and neck cancer. Funding: UCLA Academic Senate

The tumor suppressor p16 associates with gigaxonin, a product of the gene involved in the neurodegenerative disease giant axonal neuropathy (GAN), in head and neck cancers.   There is a positive association between nuclear expression of p16 and improved prognosis for head and neck cancer patients.   We have previously shown that p16 and gigaxonin mediated ubiquitination of NFκB in cisplatin treated cell lines leads to senescence and apoptosis. In some cell lines, such as CAL27 containing active p53 and inactive p16, cisplatin induces apoptosis.

More recently, studies have focused on a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of exon 8 of gigaxonin (c. 1293 C>T), noted to appear with higher frequency in the Caucasian population and head and neck cancer tumors (up to 48%). Using a population of human HPV positive and negative HNSCC cell lines, we discovered an inverse relationship between the presence of this SNP and tumor metastasis and recurrence. Furthermore, higher expression of gigaxonin protein has been noted in cell lines containing the polymorphic T allele, and these cells also exhibited slower cancer cell line growth. We hypothesize that presence of this polymorphism may be associated with increased cancer cell susceptibility to cisplatin. Using HNSCC cell lines containing the C1293T SNP, we will perform experiments in vitro and in vivo in a mouse xenograft tumor model to evaluate how the presence or absence of the C or the T allele influences expression of gigaxonin and tumor cell growth relating to the ability of cisplatin to arrest the cell cycle and cause cancer cell death. These results could support gigaxonin as a biomarker for increased sensitivity to cisplatin treatment.

 

Project 3: Outcomes research in endoscopic skull base surgery

We have been performing anterior endoscopic skull base surgery with the neurosurgery department for over 10 years and have accumulated a database of nearly 1000 patients.   Previous projects using this database have analyzed outcomes, complications, quality of life issues, and cost of care, resulting in numerous publications which have had a positive impact on algorithms for clinical care.   We continue to analyze information as the database grows, and this will yield valuable information for future treatment and quality improvement.


Alisha West, MD
Associate Professor-in-Residence
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interest: Pediatric Otolaryngology, Hearing loss, Allergy

Brief Summary of Project(s):

I am currently interested in outcomes research in the field of pediatric head and neck surgery. The projects are very straight forward and achievable in a constricted time frame if necessary. I am primarily interested in return visits to the Emergency Department and inpatient hospital admissions following head and neck surgery on children. The databases are easily navigated and typically the statistical analysis is facile. Please contact me for further information or interest.


Non-clinical Faculty

David Berry, PhD
Professor-in-Residence
Director, Laryngeal Dynamics Laboratory
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: Larygeal dynamics and high-speed imaging

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Qian-Jie Fu, PhD
Professor-in-Residence
Director, Signal Processing and Auditory Research Laboratory
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interest:

Brief Summary of Project(s):

UCLA SPAPL Projects

Laboratory Details:

Lab Name: Signal Processing and Auditory Perception Laboratory (SPAPL) Lab Director: Qian-Jie Fu, Ph.D. ([email protected])
Lab Location: 2100 W 3RD STREET, SUITE 100 (DOWNTOWN), LOS ANGELES, CA 90057
10833 LE CONTE AVE., 62-113 CHS (CAMPUS), LOS ANGELES, CA 90095

Lab Research Mission:

  • To understand the mechanisms involved in speech pattern recognition by the electrically stimulated auditory system, and further, the plasticity of the auditory cortex.
  • To provide innovative speech software to people with hearing problems based on the state-of-art speech technology and recent research findings in cochlear implants, hearing aid, speech and hearing science, language development, and auditory plasticity.

Lab Research Projects:

One large ongoing project in the laboratory is “Speech on Speech (SOS) Masking Project�. This project is to understand how people with different hearing status, age, and music experience may perform differently when the target speech is masked by different speech in a realistic listening conditions. Several underlying auditory mechanisms will be explored, including energetic masking (EM) vs informational masking (IM), listening in spatialized noise (LiSN), contralateral ear masking (CEM), and listening in asymmetric masking (LISM). The subject groups may include normal-hearing (NH) people, cochlear implant (CI) patients, bimodal CI, bilateral CI, and patients with single-sided deafness (SSD). We will also evaluate the developmental effects of speech on speech masking by comparing the data in adult and children. Furthermore, we will evaluate whether the people with music experience can perform better in difficult listening conditions, such as speech on speech masking by comparing the speech performance between musicians and non-musicians. There are many other ongoing research projects in the laboratory, including the effects of training on the integration of mismatched acoustic and electric hearing, effects of electric stimulation on tinnitus and speech performance in SSD patients, effects of age and listening modes on spectral resolution and speech recognition in noise, benefits of binaural listening in CI patients, and the development of auditory training software for other languages, such as Spanish.

Eligibilities and Responsibilities:

  • Medical students, undergraduate, or graduate students are welcome to participate in one or multiple projects;
  • Scope of works includes subject recruitment, data collection, data analysis, and/or manuscript writing;
  • Projects are open-ended with flexible working schedules and timelines

Marco Giovannini, MD, PhD
Professor-in-Residence
Email: [email protected]
Director, Neural Tumor Research Laboratory
Primary Interest:

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Larry Hoffman, PhD
Adjunct Professor
Email: [email protected]
Director Vestibular Neuroscience Laboratory
Primary Interest: Vestibular and Neuroscience research

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Federico Kalinec, PhD
Professor-in-Residence
Email: [email protected]
Director, Auditory Cell Biology Laboratory
Primary Interest: Structure and function of auditory cells

Brief Summary of Project(s):

Inflammatory Resolution and the Prevention of Drug- and Noise-Related Hearing Loss 

Our ultimate goal is to develop a simple, reliable and effective therapy for preventing and/or alleviating Drug- and Noise-Related Hearing Loss (DRHL & NRHL). Our approach is based on the hypothesis that intracochlear delivery of specific molecules known to facilitate the rapid, safe and complete resolution of inflammatory processes would be able to protect hearing function against DRHL and NRHL.  

DRHL and NRHL affect millions of people worldwide irrespective of age, sex, and race. A number of studies have shown that exposure to either drugs or noise induce cochlear inflammation and oxidative stress, which contribute to the overall pathogenesis of cochlear injury and hearing loss. However, inflammation is a life-saving protective response to overcome infections and/or tissue injury, and oxidative mediators are essential second messengers in innate and adaptive immune responses. Thus, interfering with these processes may prevent the activation of natural defense mechanisms with unintended negative consequences. We propose a novel therapeutic approach based on activation of endogenous hearing protection mechanisms that involves the use of extracellular vesicles from human mesenchymal stem cells and murine auditory cells (HEI-OC1) as drug nanocarriers, and their delivery into the cochlea of guinea pigs and mice.


Jody Kreiman, PhD
Professor-in-Residence
Email: [email protected]
Co-Director, Voice Perception Laboratory
Primary Interest: Perception and production of voice

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Ivan Lopez, PhD
Adjunct Professor
Director, Cellular and Molecular Biology of the Inner Ear Laboratory
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interest:   Molecular anatomy of the inner ear

Brief Summary of Project(s):

NIDCD National Temporal bone Laboratories

Akira Ishiyama MD, Ivan A Lopez PhD, Gail Ishiyama MD, Fred H Linthicum MD

We offer opportunity for H&N Residents, Medical Students and undergraduate students to work our projects:

  1. Cellular and Molecular biology of the implanted human cochlea. We are investigating the effects of the cochlear implant (CI) in the different cell types of the human inner ear using immunohistochemistry.
  2. We are investigating the fate of the neurons and the remaining cells of the organ of Corti using specific cellular markers. We are using antibodies against neurofilaments and acetylated tubulin to visualize the remaining neurons and supporting cells in celloidin embedded sections the implanted cochlea. We have identified a population of neurons immunoreactive to pan-neurofilaments and acetylated tubulin. Remaining/surviving nerve fibers are identified using these two antibodies. Remaining supporting cells are immunoreactive to acetylated-tubulin.
  3. We are investigating the presence of immunoreactive macrophages in the implanted cochlea. We have detected immunoreactive cells around the CI and throughout the cochlea.
  4. Cellular and molecular biology of Meniere's disease. We have been investigating the effect of Meniere's disease in the vestibular sensory hair cells and supporting cells. We identified molecular changes in water channels aquaporin and basement membrane proteins. Using transmission electron microscopy and modern staining techniques, we recently identified ultrastructural alterations in the microvasculature of the human macula utricle obtained from ablative surgery from patients diagnosed with Meniere's disease (Ishiyama et al., 2017).
  5. The blood Labyrinthine Barrier in the human inner ear .We are extending our studies on the microvasculature using celloidin-embedding sections from temporal bones obtained from patients diagnosed with Meniere's disease.

Sung K Moon, MD, PhD
Associate Professor-in-Residence
Co-Director, Pathogenesis of Ear Diseases Laboratory
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests:  Role of spiral ligament fibrocytes in cochlear inflammation

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Zhaozyan Zhang, PhD
Professor-in-Residence
Co-Director, Speech Production Laboratory
Email:   [email protected]
Primary Interest:   Speech Production

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Health Psychologists

Roger Dafter, PhD
Clinical and health Psychologist
Associate Director, Mind-Body Medicine Group
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interest: Role of emotions in mind/body healing

Brief Summary of Project(s):


David Rapkin, PhD
Clinical and Health Psychologist
Founding Director, Mind-Body Medicine Group
Email:  [email protected]
Primary Interest:  Guided Imagery and Clinical Hypnosis

Brief Summary of Project(s):


Charlene Williams, PhD
Clinical and Health Psychologist
Clinical Programs Director, Mind-Body Medicine
Email: [email protected]
Primary Interests: Hypnosis as preparation for surgery

Brief Summary of Project(s):