Thomas H. Shaffer, MS.E., Ph.D.

Research Interests

Pulmonary compromise is one of the most predominant causes of death in the pediatric and neonatal populations.  Our research is translational and covers the full spectrum of pulmonary research by examining the causes of and remedies for pulmonary disease from the laboratory bench top to the application of new therapies at the patients’ bedsides.  The Nemours Center for Pediatric Lung Research extends its research program to include clinicians from the Departments of Allergy, Anesthesiology, Cardiology, Orthopedics, Pulmonology, Emergency Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, Genetics, Respiratory Care, Pediatrics, and Neonatology.  We cross Nemours’ campuses to include physicians and researchers from both the Wilmington and Florida sites in our research efforts.

The Director of the Center for Pediatric Lung Research, Thomas H. Shaffer, MS.E., Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Physiology and Pediatrics.  He also holds the position of Professor of Pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson Medical College.  Dr. Shaffer received his doctorate from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He did postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine where he was promoted to Assistant Professor of Physiology and Medicine.  He was recruited as an Associate Professor at Temple University School of Medicine in 1977.  Dr. Shaffer has over 40 years of experience as an active scientist in pulmonary research with special attention to the needs of the neonatal and pediatric populations.  Dr. Shaffer’s revolutionary work with treatments for respiratory distress syndrome is known world-wide, and he is considered an international expert in this field.  In addition, he is renowned for his work in developmental airway physiology and clinical pulmonary function evaluation in neonates.

Dr. Shaffer’s contribution to the literature has been significant.  He has published 75 book chapters, 290 peer-reviewed manuscripts (with another 10 in review or in press), and 589 abstracts.  His clinical manuscripts have been published in Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Critical Care Medicine and many more highly respected and well-read periodicals.  In addition, he has published basic science manuscripts in the Journal of Applied Physiology, the American Journal of Physiology, and the American Journal of Circulatory Research.  He serves on the Editorial Boards of three scientific journals and is a journal reviewer for another 22 publications.

In his faculty role at the Temple University School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, Dr. Shaffer has mentored 48 graduate students and 57 post-doctoral Fellows during the past 40 years.  Many of these former students now hold faculty positions in prestigious medical schools at the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Columbia University, the University of California at Davis, SUNY in Buffalo, New York, the Temple University School of Medicine, Bowman Gray, and the University of Washington.

Since 1974, Professor Shaffer has been continuously supported by NIH, DOD, ONR grants (25) and academic, corporate and private institutional awards (50 total).  His early NIH grants were awarded during a period when corporate sponsors were not readily supporting work in his area of interest, and the resultant science acted as a catalyst for procuring many other grants from the private and corporate sectors.  The excellence of his corporate-sponsored research has resulted in over 25 patents and 5 pending.  In September, 2004, Dr. Shaffer was awarded a $10.2 million Center for Biomedical Research Excellent (COBRE) grant from the National Institutes of Health for the development of a Center for Pediatric Research (CPR) at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware.  In addition, as part of the ARRA program, he was awarded a $1.6 million in supplements to this program for 2009-2010.  On September 17, 2010, the Center for Pediatric Research (CPR) at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children was awarded an additional 5-year, $9.5-million Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  This competitive award will allow Nemours to continue to expand the CPR (http://centerforpediatricresearch.org/) and support the recruitment of additional faculty to this diverse pediatric clinical and research facility.  He serves as the Director of the new Center and administers its staff, revenues and research.  Dr. Shaffer clearly understands translational research, having moved multiple intellectual properties from the bench top to the clinic and on to industry.  In addition to NIH funding, enterprises such as Draeger Medical, Hill-Rom, Discovery Laboratories, iNO Therapeutics, the Battelle Foundation and Vapotherm, Inc. have sponsored research studies through our lab to further the development of their products.  By being efficient, accessible and knowledgeable, along with publishing our research results in major peer-reviewed journals, we have gained exposure in markets that previously were not aware of our existence.  We need to continue to reach out and broaden our marketplace by submitting abstracts and presenting our work to major conferences, providing the attendees with first-rate science and staff who can discuss and encourage others to work with us in broadening the field of pulmonary research.

Over the past few years, we have developed a unique noninvasive pulmonary evaluation laboratory that provides specialized testing on both neonatal patients and those who have some extraordinary complications that result in pulmonary compromise (Orthopedic Disorders).  As a result of our growing reputation in this area, we have been instrumental in attracting a number of referrals from other medical facilities who trust us with their patients and know that they can rely on our guidance in their patients’ care.  Recently, the Nemours Noninvasive Pulmonary Evaluation Laboratory participated in the one-lung ventilation study with Dr. Mary Theroux (Anesthesiology) and the asthma study with Dr. Magdy Attia (ER/Trauma).  The Departments of Pulmonology, Cardiology, Orthopedics, Respiratory Care and the NICU have provided additional patients for testing.

When you do great research and publish your results, the world soon comes to recognize your presence/reputation as a force to be respected.  Accessibility is important, too.  You can’t be too busy to reach out and share your knowledge.  Mentoring is sometimes your best friend.  The research becomes a huge endless loop of researchers and facilitators who work to keep the science moving in the right direction on a consistent basis and find ways to help alleviate disease and the devastation it can cause to human life.

We constantly try to make new contacts and pursue new opportunities.  In this regard, the COBRE program has allowed us to network with all of the 84 institutions associated within the   program across the nation.  Fostering collaborative relationships opens opportunities for collaborative research projects.  Additionally, we’ve been fortunate in having so many highly ranked peer-reviewed journals accept our research manuscripts for publications.  Furthermore, we have a very high rate of abstract acceptance at major national and international conferences.

The number of Fellows seeking to work with us has increased steadily over the past five years.  As noted previously, we work on research studies with clinicians from the departments of Pulmonology, Orthopedics, Cardiology, Neonatology, Genetics, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Respiratory Care, Critical Care, Anesthesia, Allergy and others throughout the organization.  We have worked on studies with physicians from Christiana Care, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University,  Columbia University, Yale University, TUFTS, and, of course, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, University of Delaware  and Temple University, among others.  In this regard, the COBRE program has been an excellent recruitment tool for attracting both new and senior investigators to Nemours, which enhances our research and broadens our collaborative base.

The Lung Center has been involved with translational research and has training clinical scientists since its conception in 2001.  However, with the award of the COBRE grant in 2004, which supports the fundamental concept of translational research across pediatric disease processes, this concept has grown enormously at Nemours.  Based on the success of the COBRE Phase I grant, it appears that the COBRE program may be able to sustain an additional 11 years of growth based on the most recent NIH feedback.

Investigators from the above-stated divisions and other Nemours Biomedical Research Center directors meet regularly to discuss both clinical and basic science studies that could have an impact on clinical care at Nemours.  For example, a recent manuscript showed that the use of chest physical therapy had little effect on reducing the severity of asthma exacerbations or the length of stay in the hospital.  The results of this study have impacted the care protocol for these patients at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.  More recently, at the Society for Pediatric Research we presented our Emergency Department (ED) Results on the utilization of pulmonary function studies in the ED for evaluating patients with asthma problems.

As noted above, once a track record has been established, investigators will come to the Center based on the Center’s success rate.  For example, we have established an animal intensive care facility that duplicates the equipment and environment associated with a NICU, PICU and OR.  This environment attracts subspecialties that want to answer clinical questions which cannot be explored (due to the invasive nature of the measurements) in clinical studies.  Thus, the animal models (Large and small) and cell laboratory provide the optimum environment to answer these questions.  None of this would have been possible without the Lung Center facility.

The Lung Center strategy for attracting external funding is built on 25+ years of the Lung Center Director’s experience in maintaining translational research programs and attracting clinical scientists into these types of projects.  The main strategy is to demonstrate productivity in publications, abstracts and presentations, which leads to success in external grant funding such as that provided by the NIH, foundations and corporate sponsors.  Once an established track record is in place, many corporate sponsors will come to you.

Current Projects

Title: Tidal Breathing Analysis of Patients with NeuroMuscular Disease
The goal of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of non-invasive age-dependent pulmonary mechanics in patients with Neuromuscular disease.   This phase of the study will compare respiratory rate as measured by RIP WOB indices with clinical assessments.  The differences will demonstrate potential guidelines for treatment interventions.

Title: Research into Normal Lung and Chest Function Development,
Repair, and Remodeling using Novel RIP Technology (Phase I= Transient Reference Values)

This project was designed to sample normal pulmonary function utilizing our newly developed non-invasive testing approaches. (IRB approved).  

Title: Impact of hyperoxia and/or hyperventilation on human smooth muscle cells
The goal of this study is to evaluate the molecular pathways associated with hyperoxia/hyperventilation in pulmonary smooth muscle in order to better understand treatment of Pulmonary hypertension in the neonate.

Title: Impact of Respiratory Muscle Structure on PMD mouse BiPhasic Breathing Patterns
The goal of this study is to evaluate respiratory muscle fiber types and nerve endings in the PMD mouse.  These finding may explain the BiPhasic Breathing patterns in PMD patients and in the mouse model.

Title: Novel retractor for Frenotomy
The retractor design was developed at Nemours using 3D printing technology, a design patent was issued and an utility patent is in review.  A pilot study in 40 newborn infants at Doylstown Hospital was completed.  Currently we are performing a follow--up study in 200 patients after frenotomy using conventional and our novel retractor.  In addition, we have requested IRB approval for ENT to perform a safety/tolerability study at A.I. DuPont Hospital in the ENT outpatient offices.

Research Group

  • Aaron Chidekel, M.D. - Pulmonologist. Studying the effects of biological interventions on Calu-3 cell preparations.
  • Robert Heinle, MD. - Pulmonologist. Prediction of obstructive apnea events during sleep studies.
  • Abagail Strang, MD. - Pulmonologist. Measures for detecting pulmonary compromise in neuromuscular patients.
  • Jay Greenspan, M.D. - Neonatologist. Clinical studies on translational research developed in the lung center.
  • Deepthi Alapati, MD. - Neonatologist. Impact of oxygen and biophysical stress on lung cells.
  • Zubair Aghai, MD. - Neonatologist. Impact of transpyloric feeding on Gerd.
  • Magdy Attia, MD. - (ER/Trauma). Clinical studies on ER admission criteria for asthma.
  • Yan Zhu, MD. - Research Associate, Lung Center manager/coordinator.
  • Tim Cox, B.S., RT - Director Respiratory Therapy, Laboratory and Clinical Studies on translational research.

Selected Publications

  • Greenspan, J.S., M.R. Wolfson, S.D. Rubenstein, and T.H. Shaffer:  Liquid ventilation in preterm baby.  Lancet, Nov. 4, 1095, 1989.
  • Goldsmith, L.S., J.S. Greenspan, S.D. Rubenstein, M.R. Wolf¬son and T.H. Shaffer: Immediate improvement in lung volume after exogenous surfactant: Alveolar recruitment vs. increased distension.  J. Pediatr. 119: 424 428, 1991.
  • Wolfson, M.R., J.S. Greenspan, K.S. Deoras, S.D. Rubenstein, and T.H. Shaffer:  Comparison of conventional gas ventilation and liquid ventilation:  Clinical, physiological, and histological correlates.  J. Appl. Physiol. 72(3): 1024 1031, 1992.
  • Panitch, H.B., M.R. Wolfson and T.H. Shaffer: Epithelial modulation of preterm airway smooth   muscle contraction. J. Appl. Physiol. 74(3):1437 1443, 1993.
  • Gross, GW, JS Greenspan, WW Fox, SD Rubenstein, MR Wolfson, TH Shaffer, and The Philadelphia Liquid Ventilation Consortium. Use of liquid ventilation with perflubron during extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: Chest Radiographic appearances. Radiol. 194:717 720, 1995.
  • Leach CL, JS Greenspan, SD Rubenstein, T.H. Shaffer, MR Wolf¬son, JC Jackson, R deLemos, BP Furhman, LiquiVent Study Group: Partial liquid  ventilation with perflubron: A pilot safety and efficacy study in premature newborns  with severe RDS who have failed conventional therapy and exogenous surfactant. N Eng J Med 335:761-767,1996.
  • Lisby, DA, PL Ballard, WW Fox, MR Wolfson, T.H. Shaffer, and LW Gonzales: Enhanced distribution of adenovirus-mediated gene transfer to lung parenchyma by perfluorochemical liquid.  Human Gene Therapy. 8:919-928, 1997.
  • Miller, TF, BN Milestone, RG Stern, TH Shaffer and  MR Wolfson: Effects of perfluorochemical (PFC) distribution and  elimination dynamics on cardiopulmonary function. J Appl Physiol. 90: 839-849, 2001.
  • Sekins KM, Leeper DB, Hoffman JK, Wolfson MR, Shaffer TH:  Feasibility of lung cancer hyperthermia using breathable perfluorochemical (PFC) liquids.  Part I.  Convective hyperthermia.  Intl. J Hyperthermia  20(3): 252-277, 2004.
  • Oshodi B, Dysart K, Cook A, Rodriguez EM, Zhu Y, Shaffer TH, Miller TL:  Airway injury resulting from repeated endotracheal intubations:  Possible prevention strategies.  Pediatr Crit Care Med. 12(1): e34-39, 2011.
  • Frizzola MA, Dysart K, Rodriguez E, Zhu Y,  Rojas J, Hesek A,  Stump A,  Shaffer TH,  Miller TL. Physiologic mechanisms of high flow nasal cannula therapy (HFT) with two degrees of leak around nasal prongs. Pediatr. Pulmonol. 46(1):67-74, 2011.
  • Giordano K, Rodriguez ME,  Green N, Armani M,  Shaffer TH, Attia M :  Pulmonary Function Tests in Pediatric ED Patients with Acute Wheezing/Asthma Exacerbation: A Pilot and Feasibility Study.  Pulm Med. 2012:  380686. doi:  10.1155/2012/ 380686. Epub 2012.
  • Zhu, Y, Alapati D, Costa J, Maduskuie VL, Fawcett PT, Shaffer TH: A Comparison of Enzyme- Linked Immunosorbent Assay versus Multiplex Methodology Using an in Vitro Model of Pulmonary Hypertension and Inflammation. J. Biomedical Science and Engineering, 2014, 7, **-** Published Online June 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/jbise doi.
  • Mowes AK, de Jongh BE, Cox T, Zhu Y, Shaffer THA Translational Cellular Model to Study the Impact of High Frequency Oscillatory Ventilation (HFOV) on Human Epithelial Cell Function.  J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Jan 1;122(1):198-205. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00400.2016. Epub 2016 Nov 10. PMID:27834669
  • Balasubramaniam SL, Wang Y, Hossain, J, Rahman T, Shaffer TH: Age-related ranges of respiratory inductance plethysmography (RIP) reference values for infants and children. Paediatric Respiratory Reviews. (2018), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prrv.2018.03.010.
  • Strang A, RyanL, Rahman T, Balasubramanian S, Hossain J, Heinle R, Shaffer TH:  Measures of respiratory inductance plethysmography (RIP) in children with neuromuscular disease. Pediatric Pulmonology 2018; 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppul.24134.

Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Center for Pediatric Research
Director, Center for Pediatric Lung Research
Associate Director of Research, DV
Director and Principal Investigator COBRE, Center for Pediatric Research

Phone: (302) 651-6837

Fax: (302) 651-6810

Email: thomas.shaffer@nemours.org

Office: Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

Address:
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE 19899

Education

  • B.S., M.S., Ph.D. - Drexel University
  • M.S. - Penn State University
  • Postdoctoral - University of Pennsylvania