Harry T. Whelan, MD, Bleser Family Endowed Chair in Neurology, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Professor of Neurology (Pediatrics), and director of the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit, The Medical College, has been inducted into the NASA Space Technology Hall of Fame for his research into the use of near-infrared LEDs for wound healing and the treatment of brain tumors and neurofibromatosis. In a multiyear investigation approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Whelan is studying the use of LEDs to promote healing of mucositis from chemotherapy and radiation used to treat cancer in children. Dr. Whelan found that diabetic skin ulcers and other wounds in mice healed much faster when exposed to the special LEDs in the lab. Near-infrared light stimulates improved energy metabolism in the mitochondria, leading to treatment for mitochondrial diseases which affect the brain, eye, heart and muscle. Dr. Whelan also is funded by the National Institutes of Health in a study of neurodegenerative disease, traumatic brain injury and other childhood traumas. He also is conducting a pilot study supported in part by the Clinical Translational Science Institute of near-infrared light therapy for diabetic macular edema, a form of diabetic eye disease. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding his research in neurological ischemia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), reperfusion and stroke, which affects many children with congenital heart disease. Dr. Whelan presented this translational bench-to-bedside research to the United States Congress at the NASA Spin-off Day on Capitol Hill as an example of how space research is helping patients.
Dr. Whelan holds the rank of Captain and is a Diving Medical Officer in the U.S. Navy, a consultant to the Navy Experimental Diving Unit, and serves as the Senior Undersea Medical Officer for the “Deep Submergence Unit”, with clinical and research experience in Hyperbaric Medicine, wound care and combat casualty care. He has over 80 publications, including cancer, laser, LED and diving/hyperbaric studies.
Education / Training
- Internship & Residency - University of Florida College of Medicine - Gainesville (1979-1984)
- Fellowship in Pediatric Neurology - University of Minnesota - Minneapolis (1981-1984)
- Doctor of Medicine - University of Wisconsin Medical School - Madison (1979)