Dr. Robert A. Whittington

Professor of Anesthesiology; Vice Chair for Faculty Development; Assistant Dean for Faculty Development

Research Description

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) remains a major health problem in the U.S., and as life expectancy continues to increase, the number of AD patients presenting for surgery and anesthesia will also rise. The etiology of AD is probably multifactorial; however, studies suggest that surgery and anesthesia may contribute to the progression of AD pathology and its related cognitive decline. Recent studies have shown that the resolution of neuroinflammation is impaired in AD. Intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles, composed of aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau protein, are one of the main neuropathological hallmarks of AD. However, how impaired resolution physiology impacts the progression of tau pathology following surgery-induced neuroinflammation and anesthesia exposure is unknown. Hence, we now hypothesize that pre-existing tau pathology inhibits the resolution response to surgery-induced neuroinflammation, resulting in increases in hippocampal and cortical tau phosphorylation, neurofibrillary pathology, and neurocognitive impairment. Moreover, these changes are amplified by the presence of anesthetics known to promote tau phosphorylation, yet attenuated by increased Lipoxin A4 signaling. These studies are currently funded by National Institute of General Medical Sciences Grant # 2R01GM101698-05.

For more information, please contact Dr. Whittington at raw9@cumc.columbia.edu.


  • Mehdi Cheheltanan, MD

    Dr. Cheheltanan received his MD degree from Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Iran, in 2009. From 2014 to 2015 he was participated in a research involving a newly discovered protein named NELL-1, in UCLA school of Medicine, Department of Plastic Surgery. This protein is an Osteogenic factor which will be used for prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis. During his research at UCLA, he was actively involved in animal studies, including various plastic and orthopedic surgeries, post-operative care and DEXA bone scanning. Since May 2016, working in the Whittington Lab on a project examining. The impact of surgery-induced neuroinflammation and anesthesia on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease pathology. He has developed expertise in animal orthopedic surgeries, brain tissue dissection and processing, Western blotting and ELISA techniques.

  • Qiuping Hu, PhD

    Qiuping Hu received her bachelor degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from China Pharmaceutical University and Ph.D. in neurobiology and pharmacology from Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan. During her graduate studies, she was trained in the research of neurologic disorders and studied the localization of Cav2.1 channel with transgenic mice by immunohistochemical staining and confocal microscopy. She then worked on the treatment of breast cancer, and investigated the mammary gland development and the survival of Flavopiridol-treated human breast cancer cells by chromatin immunoprecipitation assay and flow cytometry. In 2017, she joined Dr. Whittington’s lab, and is focusing on the mechanism(s) by which surgery-induced inflammation directly impacts tau pathology and whether increased specialized pro-resolving lipid mediator signaling restores resolution physiology in this context.