James B. Daunais, PhD
Dr. Daunais uses multimodal 3T MR imaging to investigate the impact of long-term ethanol abuse on brain structure and function in a nonhuman primates, using an 8 channel surface coil designed specifically to accommodate the nonhuman primate skull. He also applies MRI to track changes in the nonhuman primate brain as a result of normal developmental processes. Additionally, Dr. Daunais applies small-animal imaging to determine the effects of pharmacological challenges on brain metabolites in rodent models. Additional research information.
Waldemar Debinski, MD, PhD
As a Center of Excellence Director and Professor of Neurosurgery, Dr. Debinski's research focuses on a wide range of areas including biotechnology, cancer and oncogenesis, cell growth, differentiation, therapeutic agents and pharmacology, bioengineering, hormones and cytokines, molecular biology, and structural biology. He states, "The main goal of my laboratory is to advance research in the areas of unmet needs in medicine; a majority of primary brain tumors represents such needs. Our focus is on the identification of molecular markers/targets that are specific to brain tumors." Additional research information.
Debra I. Diz, PhD
As Director of the Hypertension and Vascular Research Center and Professor of Surgical Sciences-Hypertension, Dr. Diz's research interests include hypertension, aging, physical fitness, hormones, cytokinesis and signalling, and metabolism.
Barry I. Freedman, MD
As a John H. Felts, III Professor and Chief of Nephrology, Dr. Freedman is a very active clinician-researcher whose studies focus on genetic causes of kidney and cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, particularly in African-Americans; as well as clinical outcomes in chronic kidney disease and after renal transplantation. He has helped Wake Forest Baptist amass one of the world’s largest single-center collections of DNA samples from African-Americans. Additional research information.
Dwayne W. Godwin, PhD
Dr. Godwin's laboratory is focused on the problem of how the nervous system controls its own sensory input in different behavioral states, and how this control can be disrupted in diseases of the central nervous system. The thalamus supports normal sensory perception as well as complex brain rhythms that can become disordered in central nervous system diseases. The lab is involved in translational neuroscience work, examining complex questions using approaches ranging from studying the molecular biology of ion channels, to studying epilepsy using human imaging methods. See additional information.
Kristen Gill Hairston, MD
Dr. Hairston’s current research focuses on obesity, a major health problem for most populations in the United States, but particularly for African-American women, 78% of whom are either overweight or obese. Her “DIVA” study (short for Dietary Interventions and Visceral Adiposity) is examining whether increased intake of dietary fiber during a 12-week, low-calorie weight loss intervention affects abdominal fat change and improves cardiovascular risk factors and insulin sensitivity in obese African-American women more than a standard weight loss intervention would accomplish. Dr. Hairston uses MRI to assess Visceral Adipose Tissue (VAT) in these obese women both before and after the diet intervention.
Craig A. Hamilton, PhD
A founding faculty member of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Hamilton is the Program Director of the graduate program in BME. He teaches signal and image processing as well as medical imaging. A key area of interest is cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, with a primary focus on the acquisition, reconstruction, and analysis of coronary blood flow images using magnetic resonance imaging. Additional information.
Ihtsham ul Haq, MD
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been shown to provide remarkable benefits in patients with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor and chronic pain. Dr. Haq is leading the way in the use of DBS to provide much-needed relief for patients deeply disabled by obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). As a fellow at the University of Florida, Haq was involved in some of the early clinical research in the use of DBS to treat OCD, and he continues that groundbreaking work today at Wake Forest Baptist. He is also researching the neurological underpinnings of impulse control disorders, which are fairly common and devastating conditions associated with Parkinson's disease.
Christina Elizabeth Hugenschmidt, PhD
An instructor in gerontology and geriatric medicine, Dr. Hugenschmidt's research has focused along these lines, as well. She has worked on a number of studies investigating aspects of aging complicated by diabetes, obesity, cognitive decline, and genetic factors.
Youngkyoo Jung, PhD
Dr. Jung’s primary research interest is focused on technical developments of neurological magnetic resonance imaging, particularly arterial spin labeling perfusion imaging, high resolution fMRI, and DTI acquisition methods. The primary focus of his research has been dedicated to the development of new arterial spin labeling methods, and inventing solutions to overcome the current limitations of the conventional methods. In addition, his research has been exploiting novel physiologic imaging based on arterial spin labeling techniques such as transit delay mapping, vascular territory mapping, and tissue permeability mapping. See an example of Dr. Jung's recent imaging invention to the right.
Jay R. Kaplan, MD
Dr. Kaplan is Professor of Pathology (Comparative Medicine), Translational Science, and Anthropology. He also serves as Head of the Section on Comparative Medicine (Department of Pathology) and Director of the Wake Forest Primate Center. He moved to the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in 1979 to study the effects of behavioral stress on susceptibility and resistance to coronary artery atherosclerosis in a monkey model of human heart disease. His current research with monkeys focuses on the behavioral and genetic factors that influence the quality of premenopausal ovarian function, and in turn, on the effect of ovarian function on risk for chronic disease, including coronary heart disease and osteoporosis. This research has demonstrated that much of the postmenopausal trajectory for atherosclerosis and bone loss is established premenopausally, suggesting that primary prevention of postmenopausal disease should begin in the decades prior to menopause. Dr. Kaplan is a member of the National Scientific Advisory Board for the California National Primate Research Center and has been invited to be a member of the Society for Women’s Health Research Interdisciplinary Studies in Sex Differences (ISIS) Fund for Cardiovascular Disease Network. He helped initiate and is deeply involved in the collaboration between the Indonesian Primate Research Center (Pusat Studi Satwa Primata), an activity that has been ongoing for 25 years and that has resulted in the training of numerous Indonesian scientists and veterinarians. Dr. Kaplan has had a long and successful career in scientific outreach, helping bring together investigators and suitable animal models. Additional information.
Dalane W. Kitzman, MD
A cardiologist whose research focuses on heart failure, especially in the elderly, Kitzman was among the first to identify diastolic heart failure as a distinct type of disease. Another research focus is improving echocardiography as a diagnostic tool. A current study is investigating the potentially beneficial effects of dietary nitrate on exercise capacity, and the possibility of its improving exercise intolerance in people with heart failure.
Robert A. Kraft, PhD
Dr. Kraft is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering. His current research interests are investigating different MRI data acquisition methods to improve the sensitivity and image quality of MRI molecular, perfusion and functional imaging. See additional information.
George Kulik, DVM, PhD
Research in Dr. Kulik's laboratory is focused on signal transduction mechanisms that protect prostate cancer cells from apoptosis. This information is necessary to design more effective therapies for advanced prostate cancer and other therapy-resistant cancers. Recently, they have identified BAD, a pro-apoptotic protein of the Bcl-2 family, as a convergence point of several anti-apoptotic pathways downstream from PI3K/Akt, EGFR, and GPCRs. Detailed analysis of these signaling pathways revealed a complex network of remarkable redundancy that connects signals from the tumor microenvironment with BAD phosphorylation. These findings have formed a foundation for several research projects. See additional information.
Paul J. Laurienti, MD, PhD
In addition to being a Professor of Radiology, Dr. Laurienti's research interests include aging, computer and information sciences, engineering and bioengineering, neurosciences and behavior, radiology and imaging, substance abuse, mental disorders, and model development.
Sang Jin Lee, PhD
As well as serving as an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Lee pursues research on the following: engineering and bioengineering, trauma, burns and surgery, transplantation, and vascular diseases. Additional information.
Richard F. Loeser, Jr, MD
Dr. Loeser is the Program Director for the Translational Science Institute and the Sticht Center on Aging, as well as being Section Head and Professor of Molecular Medicine. His research interests focus on aging, arthritis, hormones and cytokines, molecular biology and molecular medicine.
Baisong Lu, PhD
Dr. Lu uses transgenic mouse models to examine the roles of genes in obesity. One of the mouse models he works with is mutated in the Immp2l gene and has mitochondrial dysfunction. The mutant mice show reduced food intake, which reduces adiposity. Another mouse model is mutated in the Mex3c gene and has increased energy expenditure, which also reduces adiposity. Dr. Lu uses MRI to monitor fat composition of these mutant mice, and investigates the molecular mechanisms leading to reduced adiposity. Additional information.
Maria P. McGee, MD
Dr. McGee's research interests include atherosclerosis/thrombosis, computer science, engineering/bioengineering, model development, and molecular biology/molecular medicine.
Vince Mendenhall, DVM, PhD
With an extensive background in development of surgical models for experimental medicine, medical devices, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and toxicology, Dr. Mendenhall is continuing this work as Director of Preclinical Translational Services (PTS) in areas that include surgical modeling, neurology (specifically brain and spinal cord), orthopaedics, cardiovascular, ophthalmic, soft tissue and abdominal surgery in veterinary medicine. The work that he and his staff are engaged in move experimental concepts to the stage of actual clinical application. See some abstracts of work completed to date, a description of what Preclinical Translational Services can offer to the medical community, and a link to the PTS website.
Stephen P. Messier, PhD
A Professor and Director of the J.B. Snow Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University, Dr. Messier has performed a number of studies that focus on role that diet, exercise and weight loss have on osteoarthritis of the knee, as well as their effects on pain, gait, strength and knee function. He is the principal investigator of the START study (Strength Training and Arthritis Trial).
Gary D. Miller, PhD
Dr. Miller’s research considers both healthy behavioral lifestyle changes of nutrition and physical activity as well as bariatric surgery interventions in obesity and weight loss. Most of his work focuses on older adults, although he also works with children in community-based programs, such as supermarket health tours for school-aged children and intervention programs promoting healthy eating and physical activity targeting at-risk families.
Mark S. Miller, MPhil, PhD
Dr. Miller, a Professor of Cancer Biology, focuses his research interests on cancer and oncogenesis, and radiology and imaging.
Akiva Mintz, MD, PhD
Dr. Mintz serves as an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, and the areas of his research include biotechnology, cancer and oncogenesis, drugs and therapeutic agents, and nuclear medicine. Additional research interests.
Michael J. Morykwas, PhD
Dr. Morykwas and his team have discovered that application of a controlled sub-atmospheric pressure to wounds in a controlled environment results in an increased rate of formation of granulation tissue. This has been patented as the commercially available V.A.C. device. The group is examining the effects of the applied sub-atmospheric pressure, and subsequent deformation, at the tissue, cell, and molecular level in order to help understand the mechanisms of accelerated wound healing.
Michael A. Nader, PhD
The overriding goal of Dr. Nader's research is to broaden the understanding of neural and behavioral mechanisms that mediate the reinforcing effects of cocaine and other stimulant drugs. More specifically, these studies combine behavioral models of drug abuse in monkeys with the brain imaging procedure positron emission tomography (PET) in an effort to better understand the neuropharmacological effects of cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA and other drugs of abuse. Details on research interests.
Barbara Nicklas, PhD
In addition to acting as a Professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Dr. Nicklas pursues research on aging, physical fitness, genetics and genomics, nutrition, obesity and osteoporosis.
T. Michael D. O'Shea, MD, MPH
Dr. O'Shea is the co-PI for the Extremely Low Gestational Age Newborn (ELGAN) Study. This cohort study began in 2002 with funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. A cohort of 1500 babies born before the third trimester of pregnancy were recruited and over 1200 survived neonatal intensive care and have been followed since that time. In the first 5-year funding interval, information was collected about initiators of inflammation, levels of inflammation-related proteins in blood, brain ultrasonography, and neurological and developmental testing. We learned that children who had signs of inflammation in their blood were more likely to have development problems when they were 2 years old. In the second funding period, the cohort is being evaluated when the children are 9-10 years old. Evaluations include neuropsychological assessment, academic achievement testing, and assessment for epilepsy and autism spectrum disorders. Of these children, 220 will undergo brain MRI. The study will be completed in the fall of 2015. More information is available at The Elgan Research Study website.
Emmanuel C. Opara, PhD
Dr. Opara is a professor at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Center for Diabetes Research and the VT-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering. His research is focused on the design and testing of bioartificial organs such as the bioartificial pancreas for Type 1 diabetes, and the bioartificial ovarian tissue for hormone replacement therapy and controlled drug delivery, which he uses in intervention strategies for the treatment of various diseases including obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Dr. Opara serves as Associate Editor for Pancreas journal, and as a reviewer for more than thirty peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals. Dr. Opara has led or served on numerous professional and government committees, including National Institutes of Health, the US Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control Study Sections. He is a member of many professional associations and has organized and chaired several symposia for the American Federation of Medical Research. He has several patents dealing with cell microencapsulation procedures and devices. He has received many honors and awards, including in 2007 the Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons. See more information.
Linda J. Porrino, PhD
Dr. Porrino is the Chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and is also Professor of that subject. Her research interests include radiology and imaging, and substance abuse. Details on research interests.
Thomas C. Register, PhD
Current areas of research interest for Dr. Register include aging, genetics and genomics, molecular biology and molecular medicine, osteoporosis, and the results provided by radiology and imaging to enhance research discoveries.
April E. Ronca, PhD
Dr. Ronca is the Program Director of the Women's Health Center of Excellence for Research, Leadership, Education, and is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her research interests include growth and development, model development, neurosciences and behavior, and sleep research.
Lawrence L. Rudel, PhD
Research into the causes of premature coronary heart disease has been the focus of the work in Dr. Rudel's laboratory for over 30 years. Nonhuman primate models of diet-induced atherosclerosis have been studied, and nutritional components of the diet including cholesterol and individual types of fatty acids have been evaluated. Cholesterol, saturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids have been found to be proatherogenic while polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to be antiatherogenic. By delineating molecular aspects of diet responsiveness of cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism in a nonhuman primate model of coronary artery atherosclerosis, Dr. Rudel's team is providing information that can eventually be helpful in the development of strategies for prevention of coronary heart disease. See more information, and additional details.
Carol A. Shively, PhD
Current areas of research for Dr. Shively include social inequalities in health, and modeling the comorbidity of coronary heart disease and depression in a primate model. Social inequalties in health are widely recognized to contribute to the global burden of disease. Understanding how low social status is translated into illness is a critical topic of research. Two diseases inversely related to social status in human beings are coronary heart disease (CHD) and depressive disorders. Depression and CHD are highly comorbid in the human population. CHD patients who experience depression after their first myocardial infarction (heart attack) are 4-6 times more likely to die of a second heart attack in the next 18 months. The mechanisms underlying this comorbidity are poorly understood. Her research group is currently studying this comorbidity in monkeys, and will treat depression pharmacologically to determine whether that improves CHD risk. See more information.
Beth Paterson Smith, PhD
Dr. Smith's main area of research interest involves the use of chemodenervation to manage various orthopaedic conditions. Since 1988, she has been collaborating with L. Andrew Koman, MD to evaluate the safety and efficacy of intramuscular injections of botulinum toxin in the management of muscle spasticity associated with pediatric cerebral palsy. They are currently exploring the use of chemodenervation as an adjunct to treatment for other orthopaedic conditions including rotator cuff repair surgery and idiopathic toe walking. Details on research interests.
Thomas L. Smith, PhD
Dr. Smith's current projects, in collaboration with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, include the following: the use of tissue-engineered constructs for repair of significant peripheral nerve gaps following injury; tissue engineered allografts for ACL, tendon, and meniscus repairs; and murine models of myocardial infarction to test stem cell therapies utilizing coronary artery ligations performed as survival surgeries in mice. See additional information.
Shay Soker, PhD
Dr. Soker is a principal investigator on an NIH-funded imaging grant, in collaboration with a team at Virginia Tech. The major goals of this project are to develop a first-of-its-kind multi-probe, multi-modal optical molecular tomography (OMT) system for regenerative medicine and to demonstrate its utility to visualize the development of bioengineered blood vessels in bioreactors, and after implantation into living animals in real-time.
Joel Douglas Stitzel, Jr., PhD
A Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Stitzel's current research interests involve crash injury research and engineering biomechanics of trauma, automotive safety, and sports and military biomechanics. A major project he has been involved in is the creation of a new generation of human body models to represent live humans with precision and detail not known in research "dummies" before. The models will contain detailed representation of the bones and soft tissues of the human body, with special attention to those parts that are frequently injured in vehicle collisions. They are expected to provide researchers with crucial knowledge needed to better predict the effect of different degrees of force and locations of impact on the body during an automobile crash than they have been able to do with traditional crash test dummies.
Charles H. Tegeler IV, MD
In addition to conducting research on migraine headaches using Brainwave Optimization™, a non-invasive technology that helps the brain achieve balance in neural oscillations, Dr. Tegeler and his team will expand their prior work on migraines and insomnia, while adding research projects on mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and traumatic brain injury (TBI). “We are on the way toward finding safe, effective, non-invasive solutions for the management or prevention of these important clinical disorders.” See additional information.
Lynne E. Wagenknecht, DrPH
Dr. Wagenknecht, a professor of public health sciences and associate director of the Division of Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, has a number of research interests including aging, atherosclerosis/thrombosis, cognition/learning, diabetes, epidemiology, health services, research/outcomes, metabolism, minority health issues, nutrition, obesity, radiology/imaging, and vascular diseases.
Christian Waugh, PhD
Dr. Waugh is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Psychology at Wake Forest University. His general interests include understanding how people recover from stress and how this recovery impacts emotional and physical well-being. With the CBI, Dr. Waugh conducts neuroimaging research on stress and emotion, with an emphasis on investigating their temporal dynamics. He is currently collaborating with the ANSIR lab in examining the brain regions associated with a) increased duration of emotional processing and b) differential network characteristics during stressed vs. nonstressed emotional states.
Richard B. Weinberg, MD
Dr. Weinberg's research interests include metabolism, nutrition, obesity, and he is currently working on studies regarding intestinally targeted therapies for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity; and pharmacologic enhancement of laparoscopic-assisted gastric banding for treatment of obesity and the metabolic syndrome.
Jeffrey S. Willey, PhD
Dr. Willey's laboratory investigates skeletal tissue degradation resulting from both long-duration spaceflight and radiation therapy. The link between these conditions is radiation exposure, which astronauts will face from solar and galactic sources. The lab's current project with CBI is assessing degradation in the knee joints of rats following modeled spaceflight conditions, using 7 Tesla microMRI, histology, and mechanical testing. The effects of unloading and radiation on knee joint structures in the spaceflight environment are undefined. Knee joint tissues, including articular cartilage, menisci, and ligaments are all crucial for proper joint function and stability. Thus, degradation of the joint during spaceflight may elevate the risk of bone fracture and arthritis either during spaceflight or following the return to Earth. The study's goal is to prevent this degradation with approved countermeasures for skeletal degradation during spaceflight, including exercise and select therapeutics. These approaches may then be applied to their ongoing studies examining bone and joint degradation after cancer therapy.
The figure below represents 7T microMRI images of rat knees, one year after a single exposure to 0, 1, and 5 Gray of X-rays. The plots represent the T2 relaxation times from the articular cartilage lining of the joint. The shift toward higher relaxation times in the cartilage after irradiation is indicative of cartilage damage, specifically degradation of collagen within the matrix.
James J. Yoo, MD, PhD
As a Professor in Wake Forest's Institute for Regenerative Medicine who is cross-appointed to the Department of Urology, Physiology and Pharmacology, and Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Yoo's primary research intrest in the clinical translation of tissue engineering and cell-based therapies by developing new therapeutic modalities for the functional repair and replacement of diseased tissues and organs. Dr. Yoo's background in cell biology and medicine has facilitated the transfer of numerous cell-based technologies from the bench-top to the bedside. He has been involved in the engineering of applicable tissues and organs, including the blood vessels, heart valves, kidney, cartilage, bone, muscle, bladder and urethra for clinical translation. His extensive experience in cell culture, biomaterials design, surgical techniques and animal handling has contributed to achieving functional tissues and organs for successful pre-clinical and clinical studies.