UPMC Physician Resources

UPMC Researchers Shine Light on Common Heart Complication After Lung Transplantation

Cardiac arrhythmia is a common complication following lung transplantation, and one that has a significant negative impact on long-term patient survival, reports a team of UPMC researchers in the largest study of its kind to date. The results, published online this week in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, provide critical information that will hopefully lead to better care of transplant recipients.

Arrhythmia, a rapid and irregular heartbeat, can lead to chest pain, stroke and heart failure. In addition, the blood-thinning drugs often used to treat atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia, carry risks of heavy bleeding.

“Arrhythmias present a lot of challenges for both physicians and patients. After noticing this complication in many of our lung transplant recipients, we decided to investigate how often and when it was happening, as well as any risk factors,” said lead researcher Jonathan D’Cunha, MD, PhD, associate professor, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and chief of Lung Transplantation, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, UPMC. “Now that we have a better understanding of these events, we can develop a standardized treatment plan, and better educate patients in advance.”

Performing 70 to 100 lung transplants per year, UPMC is one of the leaders for this procedure in the nation. In the new study, researchers examined the medical records of 652 UPMC patients who underwent a single or double lung transplant between 2008 and 2013.

They found that about 30 percent of patients developed arrhythmia, most often during the first week following surgery. Risk factors for a postoperative arrhythmia included being older and having had a previous heart surgery.

Researchers also found transplant recipients who developed an arrhythmia were 1.6 times more likely to die within 5 years than those who didn’t, a finding Dr. D’Cunha attributed more to the potential complications of treating arrhythmia than the abnormal heart beats themselves.

“Our study suggests that we may need to treat patients with blood thinners only for a short amount of time—until they are out of the window of highest risk—which will hopefully improve long-term outcomes,” Dr. D’Cunha explained.

In addition, because arrhythmia after lung transplant can be an anxiety-provoking experience for patients, the findings will allow surgeons to better prepare patients and families for what to expect.

“Most importantly, based on the results of this study, we can now predict, with a reasonable degree of certainty, when arrhythmia will happen,” Dr. D’Cunha said. “This allows us to begin to standardize our treatment approach and improve patient care in the postoperative setting.”

Other members of the research team include Alex D’Angelo, BA, Ernest Chan, MD, J. W. Awori Hayanga, MD, MPH, David Odell, M.D., MMSc, Joseph Pilewski, MD, Maria Crespo, MD, Matthew Morrell, MD, Norihisa Shigemura, MD, James Luketich, MD, Christian Bermudez, MD, and Andrew Althouse, PhD, all of UPMC.

Young Norfolk Girl Receives Liver Transplant in Unique Care Partnership between UVA Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

PrintA 13-year-old Norfolk girl is the first patient to receive a transplant in a unique pediatric liver transplant partnership between Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.

India Johnson suffered from two rare genetic diseases that caused her liver and kidneys to fail. India needed a liver and kidney transplant, so on Feb. 11, her mother contacted the Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center at UVA, the only comprehensive transplant center in Virginia. Coincidentally, it was the same day that UVA’s partnership with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC was announced.

The partnership was established to expand UVA’s pediatric liver transplant program and increase access to care for transplant patients throughout Virginia. Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC transplant surgeons consult with UVA counterparts and with Virginia-based patients via teleconsult. Once organs become available, a team of nurses, surgeons and specialists from Pittsburgh travel to UVA to perform the transplant alongside UVA transplant surgeons.

India and her mother, Melody Johnson, traveled to Charlottesville for evaluation with the UVA team in person and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC team via telemedicine.

“The team was so confident in what they could do, it made me confident,” Melody Johnson said. “I was really comfortable with the facility and the people.”

India received her new liver and kidney on May 17, two weeks after she was originally added to the national organ transplant waiting list. Physicians report that she is doing very well.

“We’re so pleased that India received her transplant closer to home with exceptional care from UVA and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC,” said Kenneth Brayman, MD, PhD, FACS, division chief of transplant surgery and director of the Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center at UVA.

“We’re honored that India and her family entrusted her care to us and we’re very pleased with her progress so far,” said George V. Mazariegos, MD, director of pediatric transplantation at the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at Children’s. “She represents the beginning of an important collaboration between our transplant program and our colleagues at UVA. Working together, we plan to greatly enhance this region’s organ transplant capabilities so that families from Virginia can remain close to home and still get the highest level of pediatric transplant care available in the country.”

“India’s transplant experience is a remarkable example of UVA working with partners to provide the highest level of specialty care to the citizens of the commonwealth,” Richard P. Shannon, MD, executive vice president for health affairs at UVA.

Pitt Public Health Walking Advocate Receives National Award from America Walks

America Walks, a national advocacy organization that promotes walking and walkable communities, announced today that Carol Reichbaum, MSL, MSPA, of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, has been awarded a Walking College Fellowship. Follow link for more information.

The Fellowship will enable Ms. Reichbaum and 24 other advocates from around the country to participate in a four-month training program designed to strengthen local efforts to make communities more walkable.

“We are delighted to welcome Ms. Reichbaum as a member of our 2016 Walking College class,” said Ian Thomas, state and local program director with America Walks. “This program was developed in response to our findings that access to technical assistance and a national peer network are among the most pressing needs for advocates working at the local level.”

Ms. Reichbaum is the program manager of WalkWorks, a collaboration between Pitt Public Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, funded through a grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Department of Health. Through the fellowship, she will complete a six-module distance-education training program this summer and participate in the international Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in September.

“I am thrilled and honored to have been selected as a fellow in the Walking College,” said Ms. Reichbaum. “This will afford me an incredible opportunity to enhance my knowledge of, and to be exposed to, strategies for expanding and strengthening walkable communities, thereby feeding my passion to improve the health status of the population.”

WalkWorks aims to increase opportunities for physical activity by developing walking routes and sustainable walking groups in communities with high rates of obesity and related chronic diseases. A critical component of the program is influencing policy – in particular, incorporating “health” and active transportation in policies and plans.

“Policy that promotes walking is essential to improving the health of community members,” said Ms. Reichbaum. “Participating in the Walking College will enable me to more effectively work and communicate with policymakers to create changes that help entire communities increase opportunities for physical activity.”

The Walking College curriculum has been designed to expand the capacity of local advocates to be effective community change agents.  Topics include the science behind the benefits of walking, evaluation of built environments, as well as communication skills and building relationships with stakeholders and decision makers.  At the conclusion of the Walking College, Fellows will develop a strategic plan for improving walkability in their communities.

To learn more, visit www.americawalks.org/news.

3D Bioprinted Model for the Study of Precancerous Breast Disease Aims to Reduce Unnecessary Treatment

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and materials and biomedical engineers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will address the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of a non-invasive precancerous breast tumor by creating the first-ever 3D bioprinted breast ductal structure to identify markers for low-risk premalignant disease.

The scientists were awarded nearly $800,000 in a two-year grant from the U.S. Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program of the Department of Defense.

Improvements in mammography screening have resulted in earlier detection of invasive breast cancer, and this is also associated with an increase in the detection of non-invasive breast cancer, such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – the earliest form of breast cancer where the disease has not spread out of the milk duct.  Over 60,000 women are diagnosed with DCIS each year, and the majority of non-invasive lesions will not progress to invasive diseases if left untreated. However, the majority of these women undergo unnecessary surgeries, treatments and therapy.

“More research is required to identify the minority of DCIS lesions that will progress to invasive disease and thus require treatment,” explained Adrian Lee, PhD, professor of pharmacology and chemical biology at UPCI. “Our hope is that our research will reveal novel biomarkers that will be useful for predicting which DCIS are likely to progress. We can then offer personalized therapy to those who require intervention, while reducing the overtreatment of DCIS in those who don’t. This could have a major impact upon thousands of women each year.”

UPCI researchers will collaborate with materials and biomedical engineers at CMU and use 3D bioprinting to print a breast ductal system in the laboratory. They will then grow DCIS cells in the printed duct. By printing a replica of a mouse ductal system, experts will be able to create a unique model to study why some DCIS progress to invasion while others remain indolent. Genes involved in progression may serve as biomarkers indicating the need to treat DCIS.

“3D bioprinting is transforming how we can build tissues. By allowing us to use medical imaging data to accurately recreate complex biology, this has the potential to revolutionize bioengineering and tissue regeneration,” said Adam Feinberg, PhD, associate professor in CMU’s departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. “Printing of cells and organs has been challenging because these are soft materials. Our novel technology solves this, and we are excited by the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues at UPCI to advance our understanding of DCIS and invasion.”

The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 820 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick MD 21702-5014 is the awarding and administering acquisition office. This work was supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, through the Breast Cancer Research Program, under Award No. W81XWH-16-1-0017 & W81XWH-16-1-0018.

Donate Life America and UPMC Partner to Increase Living Donor Transplant Awareness

Donate Life America and UPMC are collaborating on a first-of-its-kind online community aimed at increasing living donor transplant awareness. The initiative recently launched with the activation of the Donate Life America/UPMC Living Donor Transplant Facebook page, the first step in creating a social space for patients, donors and prospective donors to connect, get educated and share their stories.

“Donate Life America is proud to be a part of this effort to increase living donor transplant awareness,” said David Fleming, president and chief executive officer of Donate Life America, a nonprofit alliance of national organizations and state teams committed to increasing organ donation. “We applaud UPMC’s commitment to innovation and desire to educate the public about living donation and its lifesaving benefits.”

More than 120,000 men, women and children are in need of a lifesaving organ transplant. More than 28,000 people receive a transplant in the U.S. each year, including more than 6,000 from living organ donors. Although 90 percent of Americans say they support organ donation, only 52 percent are registered donors, and even fewer understand the benefits of kidney and liver transplants from living donors.

“The transplant field has come a long way over the last 20 years, but the organ shortage has gotten worse,” said Abhinav Humar, MD, UPMC’s chief of transplantation. “One of the main reasons living donor transplants haven’t taken off is because of a lack of information about the process, what it involves and who can be candidates. This initiative is a way to disseminate living donor transplant information to more people, which could help alleviate the organ shortage and save countless lives.”

More than 1 billion people are active on Facebook worldwide, and recent studies have shown that 28 percent of health-related conversations on Facebook support health-related causes, followed by 27 percent of people commenting about health experiences or updates.

“With more than 115,000 Americans waiting for a kidney or liver transplant, it is vital people know about living donation as an option,” Mr. Fleming added. “Living donation offers a key opportunity to save more lives, and Donate Life America is excited to be a part of this initiative to build a national living donation community through the power of social media.”

Donya McCoy knows all too well the power of social media when it comes to finding a donor.

At 3 years old, her daughter Kennedy was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder, and doctors believed a liver transplant could correct some of the factors contributing to the disease. Kennedy didn’t have a very good chance at securing a deceased donor liver, and living-donor liver transplant was her best option. Due to her rare condition, the donor had to be unrelated.

After researching how the living donor transplant process worked on several websites, Ms. McCoy posted what she called the “request of a lifetime” on her Facebook page in July 2014 looking for anyone with O positive blood willing to donate 25 percent of his or her liver to save her daughter’s life.

Firefighter Mike Thompson, a former classmate, messaged her back and wanted to help. A successful living donor transplant later took place at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Today, Mr. Thompson and Kennedy are doing well.

“I wasn’t just going to stand in the fruit section of the grocery store and ask for someone to save my daughter’s life, so I went online to find everything I could about the process,” Ms. McCoy said. “Facebook is my largest network of people unrelated to me and seemed like the natural place to find a donor. As humans we need to share our experiences in the hope of helping others, and this online community will help do that.”

In addition to featuring educational content about living donation, including videos from experts, articles and patient stories, the intent of the Facebook page is to allow patients and families a place to share their stories and connect with others whose lives have been affected by transplantation.

The goal of the partnership is to reduce the pediatric and adult liver and kidney waiting lists, eradicate pediatric waiting-list deaths, and improve access to transplants nationally.

David Whitcomb Honored as Outstanding Mentor

whitcomb-david-214x300David C. Whitcomb, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, received the 2016 Pancreatic Disorders Section Research Mentor Award at the Digestive Disease Week conference. This award has been presented since 2010 to outstanding mentors in specific areas of gastroenterology research.

Dr. Whitcomb has been leading pancreatic disorder research at Pitt since he joined the faculty in 1991, and he has received over two decades of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health. His research interests include hereditary pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Currently, Dr. Whitcomb’s laboratory is working to develop new ways to detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages.

Digestive Disease Week brings together the world’s largest group of physicians and researchers who are focused on gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery. Digestive Disease Week 2016 was held in San Diego from May 21 – 24, 2016

Read the full news announcement. 

Drs. Michael Boninger and Gwendolyn Sowa Expand Roles at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh

Michael Boninger, MD, has been named UPMC’s vice president for medical affairs for Community Provider Services. Currently, Dr. Boninger serves as director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In his expanded role, Dr. Boninger will provide medical leadership and coordination for initiatives in post-acute and community-based services across the entire UPMC health system continuum.

UPMC Community Provider Services includes extensive operations in home health services, community-based rehabilitation therapies, post-acute skilled nursing, senior living, and non-hospital-based pharmacy programs among others. UPMC Community Provider Services subsidiaries include the largest home health agency and the largest physical and occupational therapy provider in western Pennsylvania. Dr. Boninger will assume his new role with UPMC on July 1.

“I believe part of the U.S. health care transformation will be expansion of the scope and importance of team-based care, and the leveraging of services in the home and community settings. UPMC has great strength in this area and I’m excited to join the amazing team working on innovative ways to keep people healthy in the community,” said Dr. Boninger.

Additionally, Gwendolyn Sowa, MD, PhD, will succeed Dr. Boninger as chair of the Department of PM&R and UPMC Rehabilitation Institute director.

“We are very fortunate to have Mike in this new position. We also will benefit from his role in the department where he will continue his important research and mentor our faculty. The department is in an outstanding position to leverage its existing breadth and depth and continue to grow, thus increasing our department’s impact locally and nationally. It is an exciting time in Pittsburgh,” said Dr. Sowa.

Dr. Boninger is the recipient of the 2016 Association of Academic Physiatrists Distinguished Academician Award and the first faculty member from Pitt’s Department of PM&R to win the national award. Under his leadership, the department of PM&R consistently ranked in the top three in research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

The author of four U.S. patents, Dr. Boninger is recognized for his extensive research on spinal cord injury, and assistive technologies ranging from brain computer interfaces, to regenerative therapies to wheelchairs. He also is director of Pitt’s Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury and a member of the Institute of Medicine.

Dr. Boninger earned his medical degree at Ohio State University. He completed residencies at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan Medical Center, where he became the chief resident, physical medicine and rehabilitation. He came to the University of Pittsburgh when he won a postdoctoral fellowship in engineering and rehabilitation technology in 1994.

Dr. Sowa will begin serving as PM&R chair on July 1. Her internationally recognized research centers on molecular, laboratory-based translational and clinical research, investigating the effect of motion on inflammatory pathways and the beneficial effects of exercise. She is co-director of the Ferguson Laboratory for Orthopaedic and Spine Research, a 3,000-square-foot laboratory fully equipped to perform molecular assays, cell and organ culture, histology, and cellular and spinal biomechanical testing. She also has an active program investigating the role of molecular and clinical biomarkers in guiding individualized treatment in intervertebral disc degeneration and back pain. Her research informs her clinical work as medical director of the UPMC Total Care-Musculoskeletal Health program, and she also serves the University as associate dean for Medical Student Research.

Dr. Sowa completed her MD and PhD in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by residency training at Northwestern University, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago withadditional research training through the Rehabilitation Medicine Scientist Training Program of the Association of Academic Physiatrists.

Decision Makers Hold Overly Optimistic Expectations for Critically Ill Patient Outcomes

More than half of the family and friends making decisions for critically ill patients have significantly different estimates for the patient’s survival than their doctor—but that’s not only because of a misunderstanding, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers report in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The majority of those differences also were due to the decision maker holding fundamentally different and overly optimistic beliefs about the patient’s prognosis. The research team anticipates that this finding will help in training physicians to better communicate with the family and friends of patients so they can make the best decisions for their loved one.

“It isn’t a bad thing for a patient’s family and friends to have hope that they will recover,” said lead author Douglas B. White, MD, MAS, professor in the Pitt School of Medicine’s Department of Critical Care Medicine, and director of the department’s Program on Ethics and Decision Making. “However, it is problematic when those overly optimistic expectations result in more invasive treatments in dying patients and delayed integration of palliative care that can alleviate suffering.”

Between 2005 and 2009, Dr. White and his colleagues surveyed 229 people who had agreed to be the “surrogate decision maker” for hospitalized patients in four intensive care units at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, where Dr. White previously was a faculty member. These surrogates were typically family members or friends of the patient. They also surveyed the physicians caring for the patients for which the surrogates were making decisions.

The researchers asked both the surrogates and the doctors to estimate the chances that the patient would survive hospitalization on a scale of 0 (no chance of survival) to 100 (definite survival). They did not know each other’s answers.

In 53 percent of cases, the answers differed by more than 20 percent. The surrogates were usually more optimistic than the doctors, however the doctors’ estimates of the patient prognosis were ultimately far more accurate.

The researchers then asked the surrogates to guess what they thought the patient’s doctor answered. Generally, the surrogates would guess somewhere in between their estimate and the doctor’s real estimate. That revealed that the surrogates understood they were being more optimistic than what the doctor had been communicating to them.

The surrogates explained this in many ways, the most common being that they believed if they maintained hope, then the patient would do better than expected, or that they knew the patient better than the doctor and believed the patient had strengths the doctor didn’t know about. They also often had an optimism grounded in religious beliefs.

“As doctors, we want to provide the best possible care for our patients. In critically ill patients, that means we must do a better job communicating with the people who are making decisions for our patients,” said Dr. White, who also holds the UPMC Endowed Chair for Ethics in Critical Care Medicine. “Given the results of this study, we’re working to develop and test interventions both  to improve the comprehensibility of the prognosis doctors give to surrogates, and to better attend to the emotional and psychological factors that may influence the surrogate’s expectations for their loved one’s outcome.”

Additional researchers on this study are Natalie Ernecoff, MPH, Praewpannarai Buddadhumaruk, RN, MS, and Seoyeon Hong, PhD, all of Pitt; Lisa Weissfeld, PhD, of Statistics Collaborative in Washington DC; J. Randall Curtis, MD, MPH, of the University of Washington; and John M. Luce, MD, and Bernard Lo, MD, both of the University of California, San Francisco.

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants KL2 RR024130 and R01 HL094553; and by the Greenwall Foundation.

Sally Wenzel Honored with Award from American Thoracic Society

WENZEL_SALLY_MD_PUL_20130926 (1)Sally Wenzel, MD, professor, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Pitt School of Medicine, and director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was recently honored with the Breathing for Life Award at the annual American Thoracic Society (ATS) Foundation Research Program Benefit. The award is the highest honor given to an ATS member for philanthropy.

Dr. Wenzel has had a passion for understanding and improving the treatment of asthma, in particular severe asthma. She served as Chair of the ATS workshop on severe asthma which developed the international consensus definition of severe asthma. She has worked to promote severe asthma as a disease whose pathogenesis goes beyond issues of non-compliance/adherence. Her studies of asthma phenotypes have led the field in understanding the complexities of asthma, and in explaining why mouse models of allergic inflammation do not adequately mirror the human condition.

The American Thoracic Society Annual Meeting, which brings together experts in pulmonary disease, critical illnesses, and sleep disorders, was held May 13-18 in San Francisco.

Read the full news announcement.

 

Pitt and UPMC Launch Microbiome Center at White House Event

The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences and UPMC are collaborating on a joint venture dedicated to better understanding the trillions of microbes that form an ecosystem inhabiting the human body, called the microbiome.

To be announced today as a participant at the launch of the National Microbiome Initiative hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in Washington, DC, Pitt’s Center for Medicine and the Microbiome brings together scientists and clinicians to explore how the microbiome affects health and disease—and how it can be harnessed to develop new therapies to help patients. The initiative and its research and clinical partners aim to advance the understanding of microbiome behavior and enable protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function, including investigations of fundamental principles that govern microbiomes across diverse ecosystems and development of new tools to study microbiomes.

“The very nature of the microbiome involves many organs and affects many areas of medicine—from infectious disease, to cancer biology, to inflammatory bowel disease, to immunology—requiring collaboration between the many disciplines of science and medicine, something UPMC and Pitt have a proven track record of achieving,” said Mark T. Gladwin, MD, chair of medicine and Dr. Jack D. Myers Professor of Internal Medicine at Pitt.

The Center will be led by Alison Morris, MD, MS, who holds the UPMC Chair for Translational Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in Pitt’s School of Medicine and attended the White House event.

“Our bodies are not ours alone. A great variety of microscopic organisms call us home and, in turn, they perform critical functions for us, including digesting our food, modulating inflammation and fighting off bad bugs,” said Dr. Morris, also a professor of medicine in the Pitt  Department of Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, with a joint appointment in the Department of Immunology. “We expect our Center for Medicine and the Microbiome to usher in a new era of care, with what we learn leading to therapies for diseases and conditions ranging from obesity to cancer.”

The Center for Medicine and the Microbiome is a joint venture, with more than $5 million in funding provided by Pitt’s Department of Medicine, UPMC and UPMC Enterprises. The Pitt School of Dental Medicine and uBiome, Inc., a microbial genomics company based in San Francisco, also have contributed to Center activities.

The center will enable several innovative projects. For example, in collaboration with Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine, the microbiomes of approximately 3,500 saliva samples previously collected with patient permission can be examined and anonymously linked to patient medical records to yield what is expected to be the largest study of human genetics and microbial communities.

In the near future, the center will launch the Pittsburgh Biome Project to crowd-source a large collection of gut microbiome samples from local community members. Those who participate could get an analysis of their own microbiome and contribute to a research project that would analyze the microbiome in relationship to current and future health. This project will establish a large biorepository of clinical samples that will be linked, with the participants’ consent, to electronic health records. It will be the first of its kind to engage a local community in large-scale microbiome research related not only to current health and disease but also to future disease risk.

“Having such a biorepository and database here in Pittsburgh, where we have such strong academic and medical resources, is going to be an incredible asset,” said Arthur S. Levine, MD, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “This initiative will enable studies that could explore the impact of the microbiome on cancer, lung conditions, hypertension, heart disease, malnutrition and myriad other conditions. We may discover that the balance of microbes in the gut can be adjusted to fight obesity, or that our microbiome could help or hinder certain cancers or the response of cancer to therapy. Our discoveries could lead to clinical trials that result in therapies to help people around the world.”

Other key research areas the center intends to tackle include the development and treatment of drug-resistant pathogens and the use of fecal transplantation for various diseases, such as Clostridium difficile colitis. UPMC’s existing fecal transplant program will become an important contributor to Pitt’s Center for Medicine and the Microbiome.

The center also will provide collaboration opportunities to give Pitt scientists access to microbial analyses previously unavailable to them.

“Sequencing technologies have evolved rapidly over the past several years and can generate large amounts of data on microbiome diversity, but unfortunately these types of tests are too expensive and the analytics too complex for many researchers,” said John W. Mellors, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in Pitt’s Department of Medicine. “We intend for our new center to facilitate this type of testing, incorporating microbiome research into existing studies and supporting development of novel studies.”

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