Kimberly S. Topp

Kimberly S. Topp, PhD, Professor
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Professor and Chair
Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

Sexton Sutherland Endowed Chair in Human Anatomy
Department of Anatomy


Dr. Topp's research interests are in the pathobiology and treatment of peripheral neuropathies. In her studies of painful neuropathy induced by cancer chemotherapeutic drugs in animal models, she has demonstrated quantitative changes in sensory neuron microtubules and neurofilaments, as well as degenerative changes in primary sensory neurons following vincristine chemotherapy. With DPTSc graduate, Meredith Wampler, she has quantified alterations in somatosensory and vestibular functions in patients with breast cancer treated with the chemotherapeutic drug, taxol.
One of Dr. Topp’s research areas is in traumatic nerve injury and response of nerve to physical stress. She and DPTSc student, Benjamin Boyd, recently published a review and interpretation of the literature describing the macroscopic and microscopic anatomy of peripheral nerve, and changes in nerve structure and biomechanics that occur in response to physical stresses placed on nerve during everyday activities. Dr. Topp and Ben have measured significant increases in nerve strain in the first three weeks after mild traumatic injury to the sciatic nerve in a rat model. They have correlated the alterations in biomechanical properties after injury with functional changes in animal gait using a novel pressure mapping system. Dr. Topp and UCSF physician colleagues are currently measuring responses to neurodynamic clinical tests in patients with sciatica and in a subset of subjects with sciatic nerve edema evident in MR neurograms. This study will also assess the subjects’ responses to conservative physical therapy treatment for sciatica originating from nerve injury peripheral to the lumbar spine.

Dr. Topp has a long-term collaboration with Dr. Patricia Painter, exercise physiologist, to quantify morphological changes in skeletal muscle tissue in patients with end stage renal disease. They have demonstrated that the morphological changes may be attenuated by reducing prednisone treatment after kidney transplantation.

Dr. Topp is theme director for the anatomy curriculum for the Essential Core of the School of Medicine and a member of the UCSF Academy of Medical Educators. She teaches in several academic blocks, including Prologue, Organs, Metabolism and Nutrition, Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, Cancer Bench-to-Bedside, Life Cycle and Epilogue. She has shared curricular innovations for teaching anatomy through academic publications.

Dr. Topp is Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, and teaches Neuromuscular Anatomy, Review of Functional Anatomy and Nerve Biology and Biomechanics within the Graduate Program in Physical Therapy.

Complete list of Publications/PubMed

Selected Publications

Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy
Topp, K.S., Tanner, K.D., and J.D. Levine. Damage to the cytoskeleton of large diameter sensory neurons and myelinated axons in vincristine-induced painful peripheral neuropathy in the rat. J. Comp. Neurol. 424:563-576, 2000.

Wampler, M.A., Miaskowski, C., Hamel, K., Byl, N., Rugo, H., and Topp, K.S. The modified Total Neuropathy Score: a clinically feasible and valid measure of taxane-induced peripheral neuropathy in women with breast cancer. (in press; J. Supportive Oncol.)

Nerve structure and biomechanics
Boyd, B., Puttlitz, C., Gan, J., Topp, K.S. Strain and excursion in the rat sciatic nerve during a modified straight leg raise are altered after traumatic nerve injury. J Orthop Res. 23:764-770, 2005.

Topp, K.S., and Boyd, B. Structure and biomechanics of peripheral nerve: Nerve responses to physical stresses and implications for physical therapist practice. Phys. Ther. 86:92-109, 2006.

Muscle structure in end-stage renal disease
Topp, K.S., Painter, P.L., Walcott, S., Krasnoff, J.B., Adey, D., Sakkas, G, Taylor, J., McCormick, K., teNyenhuis, M., Iofina, M., Tomlanovich S., Stock, P. Alterations in skeletal muscle structure are minimized with steroid withdrawal following renal transplantation. Transplantation. 76:667-673, 2003.

Anatomy teaching
Topp, K.S. Prosection versus dissection: the debate continues. The Anat Rec, 281B:12-14, 2004.

Chou, CL, Topp, KS, O’Sullivan, P. Multidisciplinary teaching of the musculoskeletal physical examination. Med. Educ. 40:481-482, 2006.