As a neurosurgeon-scientist, Dr. Yi Lu's major academic activities are combinations of investigational researches and clinical innovations. His main research contribution is the identification of the essential role of PTEN/mTOR pathway in axon regeneration after spinal cord injury. Dr. Lu's major clinical expertise is minimally invasive, muscle sparing spine surgery technique and its use in decreasing patients’ surgical morbidities.
Prior to focusing his basic science research on spinal cord injury, Dr. Lu studied the relationship between DNA repair and tumorigenesis during his PhD study. His major contribution during that period was the identification that the disruption of the transcription coupled DNA repair process decreases the chance of tumor formation. He also studies the use of small molecules in blocking transcription coupled DNA repair pathway as a potential therapeutic agent and the role of RNA polymerase II, an important protein in transcription coupled DNA repair pathway, in apoptosis.
During Dr. Lu's post-doc research, he focused his research on the molecular mechanisms of axon regeneration after spinal cord injury. The major achievement during that time is the identification of the importance of PTEN/mTOR pathway in regulating axon regeneration after spinal cord injury. Dr. Lu's research also led to his winning of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Spinal Cord Injury Research award in 2011. Currently his ongoing research is focused on the use of cell therapy with the combination of axon regeneration to achieve effective functional recovery after severe spinal cord injury.
Dr. Lu's clinical interests are focused on spine surgery, especially minimally invasive spine surgery technique and the use of it to decrease surgical morbidities such as, post-operative pain, iatrogenic destabilization, infection risk, prolonged narcotic use and slow return to work. Currently he is focusing on further advancing of the minimally invasive, muscle sparing spine surgical techniques, especially for complex spine surgeries such as spinal tumor reconstructive surgery and adult spinal deformity surgeries.
In summary, Dr. Lu's contributions to academic neurosurgery are in the advancement of both spinal cord injury research and minimally invasive spinal surgery.