The basic science laboratory in neuro-urology, headed by Arthur L. Burnett, M.D., is one of the independent research laboratories within the Brady Urological Institute. The laboratory focuses on biological mechanisms of the pelvis as these relate to erectile and voiding dysfunctions primarily. The direction of research aims to understand the neurophysiology as well as vascular physiology of the lower genitourinary tract, with an emphasis on the translational aspect of basic science discoveries relevant to the human condition. Overall, the laboratory is geared toward improving and preserving erectile and voiding dysfunctions which occur as a result of pelvic disorders and consequences from treatment of these disorders.
The research personnel in the laboratory of neuro-urology include Dr. Burnett as the laboratory director as well as 2 research associates, Biljana Musicki, Ph.D. and Liming Jin, Ph.D., as well as 2 senior research technicians, Tongyun Liu and Gwen Lagoda. Besides these core personnel, the laboratory frequently is joined by post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students. Consistent with the collaborative activities of the laboratory, the laboratory interacts quite actively with scientists in the Departments of Neuroscience, Cardiology and Psychiatry, not to mention other collaborators within the Department of Urology.
The basic science laboratory in neuro-urology has been headed by Dr. Arthur Burnett over approximately the last 10 years, evolving from his activities upon completion of urologic residency and then coming on staff in the Department of Urology. Principal research studies have focused on the neurophysiology of the pelvis along with molecular mechanisms largely specific to nerve regulation of erectile and voiding functions. Original discoveries in the laboratory have included the description of nitric oxide as the principal neurotransmitter regulating penile erection. The discovery contributed to an understanding of the science of penile erection in the early 1990’s from which drugs such as Viagra, Levita, and Cialis were developed. The laboratory has continued major studies in the areas of nitric oxide biology in the pelvis as they relate to other erection disorders such as priapism, a condition of prolonged penile erection.
Additional research activities in the laboratory in the past several years have focused on improving outcomes with radical prostatectomy particularly as these relate to the recovery of urinary and erectile functions. Primary efforts have gone toward the investigation and development of chemical compounds for application in men undergoing radical prostatectomy in hopes that erectile function will be better preserved. Collaboration with neuroscientists at this institution have established a role for neuroimmunophilins, special proteins localized to nerves which appear to be the receptor molecules for specialized drugs that can be taken to thereby protect the nerves from significant damage. Experimental models in rats with nerve injury leading to erectile dysfunction similar to that occurring in men after radical prostatectomy have been used demonstrating the major potential for drugs based on this pathway to be developed and used in the near future. Ongoing projects have involved the study of additional drugs that may serve the purpose of recovering penile nerve function in men undergoing radical prostatectomy.
Research Training Opportunities:
The laboratory vigorously welcomes students at the graduate and undergraduate levels to participate in research activities. Medical students are particularly encouraged to join the laboratory for an elective rotation, even for a short period of time. Post-doctoral fellows are also encouraged to consider the laboratory for further research development in the areas of pelvic neurophysiology and vascular biology. Applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Burnett directly via e-mail or by telephone contact to inquire about such opportunities.