Neurosurgical Chief Resident Dr. Brenton Pennicooke was named this morning as the first winner of the Michael L.J. Apuzzo Resident Literature Award for Creativity and Innovation. This new award recognizes original work by a Weill Cornell Medicine resident in neurological surgery in laboratory or clinical research. The prize is named after Dr. Michael L.J. Apuzzo, who over a four-decade career has become internationally renowned for furthering and reinventing the medical community’s understanding of neurosurgery.
The winning paper, “Annulus Fibrosus Repair Using High-Density Collagen Gel: An In Vivo Ovine Model,” was published in July 2017 by the peer-reviewed journal Spine (e-published in advance of print). The paper describes researched conducted as part of Dr. Roger Hartl’s team, which is investigating new bioengineered materials for disc replacement. It was co-authored by Dr. Hartl’s collaborator in Ithaca, Dr. Lawrence Bonassar; Dr. Pennicooke’s fellow resident Ibrahim Hussain, MD; along with Connor Berlin, Stephen Sloan, Dr. Brandon Borde, Dr. Yu Moriguchi, Dr. Gernot Lang, Dr. Rodrigo Navarro-Ramirez, and Dr. Jonathan Cheetham.
In this investigation, researchers performed lateral-access lumbar surgery on sheep models to inject one of these new materials, a riboflavin (RF) cross-linked high-density collagen (HDC) gel, to evaluate its effectiveness in repairing a degenerated disc. Both the technique and the material proved to be safe, effective, and reproducible. The new materials show tremendous promise for future human trials, with the potential to relieve the pain of disc degeneration using tissue-engineered materials.
Dr. Pennicooke is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School. In addition to complex spine surgery, his neurosurgical interests include endovascular intervention, skull base surgery, and molecular marker prognostication for brain tumors.