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New Pitt Research Team Finds Different Immune Response in Severe Asthma; To Continue Such Studies

PITTSBURGH, June 29, 2015 – The immune response that occurs in patients with severe asthma is markedly different than what occurs in milder forms of the lung condition, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Those unique features could point the way to new treatments, they said in an article published online today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI).

People with severe asthma, in which the airways become inflamed and constrict to impair breathing, do not get better even with high doses of corticosteroids, the mainstay of treatment for typical asthma, explained Anuradha Ray, Ph.D., professor of medicine, Pitt School of Medicine.

“About 10 percent of asthma patients have a severe form of the disease, but they account for up to half of asthma costs in the U.S. and Europe,” Dr. Ray said. “That’s because these patients frequently need to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized when they have an acute asthma episode.”

For the study, conducted as part of the doctoral thesis of Mahesh Raundhal, a graduate student in the laboratory of Prabir Ray, Ph.D., Pitt professor of medicine and co-senior author, the research team examined lung cell samples obtained from patients also participating in the Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP), a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health-sponsored program to improve the understanding of severe asthma. Sally Wenzel, M.D., director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute of UPMC, serves as the Pitt SARP principal investigator.

Researchers observed that the immune cells, called CD4 T-cells, in the airways of severe asthmatics secreted different inflammatory proteins than those in mild disease, particularly interferon gamma. The analysis of human samples helped them to develop a mouse model of the disease by introducing an allergen and a bacterial product to induce an immune profile and airway hyper-reactivity that were poorly controlled by corticosteroids, comparable to human severe asthma patients.

When they subjected mice that lacked the interferon gamma gene to the severe asthma model, they found that the mice could not be induced to develop severe asthma. Using computer modeling to identify links between interferon gamma and asthma-associated genes, they learned that as interferon gamma levels rose, the levels of a protein called secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) dropped.

In follow-up experiments, the team found that boosting SLPI levels reduced airway hyper-reactivity in the animal model.

“We’d like to better understand why severe asthma occurs in most people right from the start,” Dr. Anuradha Ray said. “We also want to find agents that can raise SLPI levels for clinical use.”

In a new project that began this month, Drs. Anuradha Ray and Wenzel were recently awarded a five-year, $8 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), also part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to continue studying the immune response and genetic roots of severe asthma in 120 patients and in animal models.

The research effort signifies a union of Pitt and UPMC scientists, immunologists and clinicians working under the NIAID grant to bring bench to bedside and bedside to bench, Dr. Wenzel said.

“It’s the unmet need of asthma,” Dr. Wenzel said. “This is one of the first true opportunities to integrate top-tier immunologists with translational clinical science. To find the many different mechanisms involved, you need a team effort such as this one.”

In addition to Drs. Wenzel and Anuradha Ray, the project leaders of this grant are core leaders Timothy B. Oriss, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and Jay Kolls, M.D., of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, who also co-authored the JCI paper. Other members of the research team are Prabir Ray, Ph.D., and Fernando Holguin, M.D., Douglas Landsittel, Ph.D., and Donald DeFranco, Ph.D., all of Pitt.

The published project was funded by NIH grants HL113956, Al106684, AI048927, AI100012, HL69174, HL079142, and DK072506; as well as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Research Development Program.

Pitt, Children’s Research Papers Receive Top 10 Awards from Clinical Research Forum

PrintPITTSBURGH, April 20, 2015 – Three scientific papers published in 2014 by research teams from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC have each been selected to receive a Clinical Research Forum Annual Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Award. The awards were announced last night at the Forum’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The winning papers from Pitt and UPMC were chosen based on their degree of innovation from a pool of more than 50 nominations from 30 research and academic health centers nationwide. The Forum and its supporters believe these and other top ten papers represent the best and brightest work in the field, and will lead to advancements in medicine that will change lives and patient outcomes worldwide. “It is extraordinary to have three University of Pittsburgh projects in a variety of disciplines recognized by the Forum for their clinical impact and rigorous science,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “This impressive showing reflects the commitment and caliber of the researchers on our campus, and is a tribute to the University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which facilitates and supports these endeavors.” The three winners are:

  • “Upper-Airway Stimulation for Obstructive Sleep Apnea,” published Jan. 9, 2014, in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed implanting a device called Inspire® Upper Airway Stimulation led to a 70 percent reduction of severe obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. Project investigators included lead author Patrick Strollo, M.D., professor of medicine and clinical and translational science, Pitt School of Medicine, and medical director of the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center, and Ryan Soose, MD.
  • A Randomized Trial of Protocol-Based Care for Early Septic Shock,” published May 1, 2014, in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that a structured, standardized approach to diagnose and treat sepsis in its early stages did not change patient survival rates. Project investigators included Derek Angus, M.D., M.P.H., distinguished professor and Mitchell P. Fink Chair, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Pitt School of Medicine, and Donald M. Yealy, M.D., professor and chair of Pitt’s Department of Emergency Medicine.
  • Antimicrobial Prophylaxis for Children with Vesicoureteral Reflux,” published June 19, 2014, in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that children with abnormal flow of urine from the bladder to the upper urinary tract, called vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), can avoid recurrent urinary tract infections by taking daily low-dose antibiotics. Project investigators included senior author Alejandro Hoberman, M.D., chief, Division of General Academic Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, and professor of pediatrics, Pitt School of Medicine.

“I applaud the researchers recognized for their groundbreaking clinical research that will advance new treatments to reduce suffering and bring hope to millions of people,” said National Institutes of Health director, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “And I’m especially proud that NIH funding makes these advances possible.” Other awardees include scientists from Harvard Medical School, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA and other leading institutions. The Clinical Research Forum was formed in 1996 to discuss the unique and complex challenges to clinical research in academic health centers. The mission of the Forum is to provide leadership to the national clinical and translational research enterprise and promote understanding and support for clinical research and its impact on health and health care.

Rama K. Mallampalli, MD, Named Chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine

PITTSBURGH, March 7, 2015 – The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is proud to announce the appointment of Rama K. Mallampalli, MD, as chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, effective March 1, 2015. Dr. Mallampalli is succeeding Mark T. Gladwin, MD, who assumed his new role as chair of the Department of Medicine on March 1.

Dr. Mallampalli, who also serves as Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine and as director of the Acute Lung Injury Center of Excellence, received his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin. He completed an internal medicine residency at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minn., where he also served as chief medical resident. Dr. Mallampalli completed a pulmonary and critical care fellowship at the University of Iowa, where he was appointed professor of medicine and biochemistry and served as associate chair. He was recruited as chief of the Pulmonary Division of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and as director of the Acute Lung Injury Center at the University of Pittsburgh in September of 2009.

Dr. Mallampalli’s research focuses on pulmonary molecular and cell biology as it relates to acute lung injury (ALI) and the mechanisms of sepsis. He is an internationally recognized investigator of lipid metabolism and ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis related to inflammation and injury.

Dr. Mallampalli has served on the editorial boards of several clinical journals including The Journal of Biological Chemistry, the American Journal of Physiology, and the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. He also serves on multiple peer review panels. He is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society of Clinical Investigation. Dr. Mallampalli has been recognized with an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association and a career investigator distinction from the American Lung Association.

Mark Gladwin, M.D., Named New Chair of Department of Medicine at Pitt School of Medicine

PITTSBURGH, March 6, 2015 – The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has chosen one if its own renowned faculty members to be the next chair of the Department of Medicine, which ranks among the nation’s largest clinical and research departments with divisions in cancer, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, geriatrics, infectious diseases, kidney, lung and allergy, and rheumatology.

Mark T. Gladwin, M.D., who assumed his new role on March 1, will remain the director of Pitt’s Heart, Lung, Blood, and Vascular Medicine Institute and will continue to see patients in the critical care units at UPMC Presbyterian. He was recognized as a Distinguished Professor of Medicine in 2014.

“Dr. Gladwin will be taking on critical responsibilities in a time when the scientific opportunities to improve the human condition have never been greater, but the funding to address these opportunities has never been more threatened,” noted Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “I have great confidence in his ability to rise to these challenges and take the Department of Medicine to the highest achievements in medical education, as well as research and clinical excellence.”

The Department of Medicine is home to 650 faculty members and 10 divisions, including Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine (PACCM), which Dr. Gladwin chaired for the past six years. Last year, the department’s direct research expenditures were $94 million, and its physicians saw 340,000 outpatients.

“I am honored to be selected to play this key role in the School of Medicine,” Dr. Gladwin said. “We face many opportunities to translate the remarkable progress in genetics and science to better care for our patients and to develop new therapies. I am convinced that Pittsburgh will continue to be home and catalyst for new models of efficient and high quality patient-centered care and the training of future generations of physicians and scientists. Our work and success will enhance our regional economy, with science and medicine bringing National Institutes of Health grants to the community and attracting new businesses and industry partnerships that will take our exciting discoveries to the patient at the bedside and the clinic.”

Dr. Gladwin will continue his research into the role of nitrite and nitric oxide (NO) in vascular medicine. Among his major scientific discoveries is the finding that the nitrite salt is a biological signaling molecule that regulates physiological and pathological hypoxic responses, blood pressure and flow, and dynamic mitochondrial electron transport. His 2003 Nature Medicine paper on proteins that regulate NO production has been cited more than 1,000 times, is listed in the journal’s top 10 “Classic Collection,” and has led to the development and licensing of intravenous, oral and inhaled nitrite as a human therapeutic agent, currently in clinical trials. He also has characterized a novel mechanism of disease called hemolysis-associated endothelial dysfunction, a state of resistance to NO in patients with sickle cell disease, malaria, the transfusion of aged blood, and other conditions of damaged red blood cells.

Dr. Gladwin received his bachelors of science and medical degrees from the University of Miami. He completed his internship and chief residency in internal medicine at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, followed by a critical care medicine fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and a pulmonary fellowship at the University of Washington. He returned to NIH for postdoctoral research fellowships in cell and molecular biology and later served as chief of the Pulmonary and Vascular Medicine Branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of NIH. He joined Pitt as chief of PACCM in August 2008.

Among Dr. Gladwin’s numerous academic awards are: the U.S. Public Health Service Achievement Award, the NIH Director’s Award for Mentoring, the NIH Clinical Center Director’s Award for Science, and the Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments from the American Thoracic Society.

He succeeds John Reilly, M.D., who is now dean of the University of Colorado’s medical school.

Coupling Head and Neck Cancer Screening and Lung Cancer Scans Could Improve Early Detection, Survival

PITTSBURGH, January 5, 2015 – Adding head and neck cancer screenings to recommended lung cancer screenings would likely improve early detection and survival, according to a multidisciplinary team led by scientists affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), a partner with UPMC CancerCenter.

In an analysis published in the journal Cancer and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the team provides a rationale for a national clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of adding examination of the head and neck to lung cancer screening programs. People most at risk for lung cancer are also those most at risk for head and neck cancer.

“When caught early, the five-year survival rate for head and neck cancer is over 83 percent,” said senior author Brenda Diergaarde, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and member of the UPCI. “However, the majority of cases are diagnosed later when survival rates generally shrink below 50 percent. There is a strong need to develop strategies that will result in identification of the cancer when it can still be successfully treated.”

Head and neck cancer is the world’s sixth-most common type of cancer. Worldwide every year, 600,000 people are diagnosed with it and about 350,000 die. Tobacco use and alcohol consumption are the major risk factors for developing the cancer.

The early symptoms are typically a lump or sore in the mouth or throat, trouble swallowing or a voice change, which are often brushed off as a cold or something that will heal. Treatment, particularly in later stages, can be disfiguring and can change the way a person talks or eats.

Dr. Diergaarde and her team analyzed the records of 3,587 people enrolled in the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study (PLuSS), which consists of current and ex-smokers aged 50 and older, to see if they had a higher chance of developing head and neck cancer.

In the general U.S. population, fewer than 43 per 100,000 people would be expected to develop head and neck cancer annually among those 50 and older. Among the PLuSS participants, the rate was 71.4 cases annually per 100,000 people.

Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, as well as the American Cancer Society and several other organizations, recommended annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography in people 55 to 74 years old with a smoking history averaging at least a pack a day for a total of 30 years. The recommendation came after a national clinical trial showed that such screening reduces lung cancer mortality.

“Head and neck cancer is relatively rare, and screening the general population would be impractical,” said co-author David O. Wilson, M.D., M.P.H., associate director of UPMC’s Lung Cancer Center. “However, the patients at risk for lung cancer whom we would refer for the newly recommended annual screening are the same patients that our study shows also likely would benefit from regular head and neck cancer screenings. If such screening reduces mortality in these at-risk patients, that would be a convenient way to increase early detection and save lives.”

Dr. Diergaarde’s team is collaborating with otolaryngologists to design a national trial that would determine if regular head and neck cancer screenings for people referred for lung cancer screenings would indeed reduce mortality.

Additional researchers on this study are Ronak Dixit, Joel L. Weissfeld, M.D., M.P.H., Paula Balogh, D.N.P., F.N.P., Pamela Sufka and Jennifer R. Grandis, M.D., F.A.C.S., all of Pitt; and Jill M. Siegfried, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota.

This research was funded by NIH grants P50 CA097190, P50 CA090440 and P30 CA047904.

Pitt Team Discovers New Mechanism That Helps Explain Why Older Patients Develop Lung Fibrosis

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 22, 2014 – When researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine took a closer look at certain cells from the scarred lungs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), they were surprised by what they saw: many misshapen, bloated mitochondria. The unexpected observation led them to conduct a study, published online today, that will be featured on the cover of the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, that could for the first time help explain why the risk of developing the deadly lung disease increases with age.

Older age is a well-known risk factor for IPF, a disease in which the lung tissue becomes progressively fibrotic, or scarred, leading to breathing difficulties and death within three to five years if a lung transplant isn’t possible, said senior investigator Ana L. Mora, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine and a member of the Heart, Lung, Blood and Vascular Medicine Institute (VMI) at Pitt. The cause of the disease is unknown, or “idiopathic.”

“Other chronic and progressive diseases we see with aging, such as Parkinson’s disease, have been recently associated with mitochondrial abnormalities, so we wondered if that was occurring in IPF,” she said. “It was a simple question, but it hadn’t been asked before, so we examined lung cells from patients with advanced IPF and healthy people. We were so surprised to see dramatic differences in the number, shape and function of the mitochondria.”

After characterizing the oddities of the mitochondria, which provide energy for the cell, the team checked the levels of an enzyme called PTEN-induced putative kinase 1, or PINK1, that plays key roles in mitochondrial function and morphology, or shape. Experiments showed that impairment of mitochondria was associated with a reduction in PINK1 expression, and mice lacking PINK1 had dysfunctional, misshapen mitochondria in lung cells and were susceptible to developing lung fibrosis.

“We found also that low PINK1 is associated with increasing age and cellular stress,” Dr. Mora said. “This might help explain why older people are at greater risk for developing IPF, and it could mean developing drugs that can boost PINK1 levels or improve mitochondrial function will help treat IPF.”

“These findings are remarkable as they identify a similar disease pathway to that seen in other age related brain diseases,” said Mark Gladwin, M.D., professor and chief, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, and VMI director, who is not on the research team. “This is the first study to find that the mitochondria themselves, the energy factories of our cells, are altered with lung fibrosis.”

In addition, the team hopes to find biomarkers to identify the disease in earlier stages as well as explore other factors that could increase susceptibility to IPF.

The research team includes Marta Bueno, Ph.D., Yen-Chun Lai, Ph.D, Judith Brands, Ph.D., Claudette St. Croix, PhD., Christelle Kamga, Ph.D., Catherine Corey, John Sembrat, Janet S. Lee, M.D., Steve R. Duncan, M.D., Mauricio Rojas, M.D., Sruti Shiva, Ph.D., and Charleen T. Chu, M.D., Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh; Yair Romero, of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City, Mexico; and Jose D. Herazo-Maya, M.D., of Yale University.

The project was funded by National Institutes of Health grants NS065789 and AG026389; the Vascular Medicine Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, the Institute for Transfusion Medicine, and the Hemophilia Center of Western Pennsylvania.

Bacterial or Viral Lung Infection? UPMC Studying Blood Test That Could Reduce Antibiotic Use

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 11 – A new blood biomarker test that indicates whether bacteria is the cause of a patient’s lung infection is now being studied at UPMC Presbyterian, launching a national multicenter trial. The information could help doctors decide when to prescribe antibiotics and possibly reduce overuse of the drugs, which can lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Patients who go to hospital emergency departments (ED) with coughs and breathing difficulties could have pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or even congestive heart failure, explained principal investigator David T. Huang, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of critical care medicine and emergency medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Aaron Brown, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine, and Franziska Jovin, M.D., associate professor of medicine, will lead the study in the ED and hospital.

“Doctors prescribe antibiotics more often than they would like to because it can be really hard to tell if a patient has a lung infection or a non-infectious disease,” he said. “Also, viral infections look very much like bacterial infections, and X-rays typically cannot distinguish between the two. This study will examine whether a novel biomarker can help doctors make more informed decisions about using antibiotics.”

More than 1,500 lung infection patients will be needed to complete the Procalcitonin Antibiotic Consensus Trial (ProACT), which will eventually be expanded to include approximately 10 other sites across the country.

Patients diagnosed in the ED with a lung infection and who are not critically ill will be asked to join ProACT. If they agree, patients will be randomly assigned to either get usual care or to also have a blood test to measure the level of the protein procalcitonin, which previous Swiss studies have shown is high with bacterial infection and low with viral infection. The result and a recommendation about antibiotic use will be available within an hour to the treating ED physician. If the patient is admitted to the hospital, follow-up procalcitonin levels will be checked and made available to the treating hospital physician. The research team will call study patients twice within 30 days of the ED visit to check on their health status and the period of antibiotic use, if any.

“The final decision to use or not use antibiotics is up to the doctor, who also will be taking into account the patient’s medical history and other factors,” Dr. Huang said. “My hope is that we’ll find that patient outcomes are as just as good, while antibiotic use declines.” ProACT is funded by a $5 million, five-year grant, and a one-year trial planning grant, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

UPMC Clinicians Win Beckwith Institute Grants to Engage Patients, Improve Care

PITTSBURGH, July 25, 2014 –To experiment with changes big and small that might better engage patients and improve health care, The Beckwith Institute recently awarded 11 new grants to UPMC clinicians and other staff.

The wide-ranging projects include an effort to develop a shared decision-making tool for family members of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) and the creation of an interactive, Web-based “thermometer” to monitor the mood and energy of adolescents with bipolar disorder.

Supported by UPMC Chairman G. Nicholas Beckwith and his wife, Dotty, with matching funds from UPMC, the Beckwith Institute annually provides grants to improve clinical outcomes by empowering both clinicians and patients to explore innovative ways of transforming health care.

“Through the inspiring leadership and generous financial assistance of Nick and Dotty Beckwith, we are able to empower clinicians and other staff to experiment with new methods for transforming care delivery,” said Tami Minnier, UPMC chief quality officer. “At the heart of every project chosen for this program is an emphasis on engaging and educating patients and families so that they can play a meaningful role in the health care decisions that affect them.”

The grants are administered through two complementary efforts: The Frontline Innovation Program, which focuses on improving the patient bedside experience, and the Clinical Transformation Program, which supports comprehensive redesign of processes to put the involvement of the patient and their loved ones at the core.

The projects awarded 2014-2015 grants include:

  • a novel “mood and energy” tracking application for patients with pediatric bipolar disorder
  • a mobile application that allows patients to track and navigate the complex organ transplant process
  • a Web-based communication and decision support tool to improve the quality of shared decision-making in the ICU and to prepare family members for the role of surrogate decision maker
  • use of personal health monitoring devices for elderly patients with heart disease to promote patient engagement and prevent complications
  • an effort to assess patients for readmission risk and to ensure appropriate outreach after hospital discharge
  • resources to engage pediatric patients in diabetes care
  • standardization of sexual assault care at UPMC facilities
  • an asthma education program for children that includes a nurse hotline and online patient portal
  • a decision-making tool to help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease make informed treatment decisions
  • development of a protocol that can be used to safely identify and discharge blunt trauma patients who have sustained no significant injury
  • a multidisciplinary effort to reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions for patients with complex health needs

UPMC Named to U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of ‘Best Hospitals’ for 15th Time

UPMC Ranks #1 in Pennsylvania, #1 in Pittsburgh for Clinical Excellence

PITTSBURGH, July 15, 2014 UPMC has once again received national recognition for its clinical expertise, earning 12th position on the annual U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of America’s “Best Hospitals.” UPMC is the highest-ranked medical center in both Pennsylvania and in Pittsburgh.

“While we’re very proud that UPMC was recognized for the 15th year, it is our patients who are the ultimate winners. Our exceptionally skilled and devoted health care professionals do what they do best every day — provide the finest health care in the state and in the region,” said Leslie C. Davis, president, UPMC Hospital and Community Services Division.

“We are honored to receive this national distinction, which recognizes UPMC’s unique combination of high-quality medical care, a top health insurance plan, and close affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh, one of the best medical schools in the country,” added Steven Shapiro, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical and scientific officer at UPMC. “Furthermore, it emphasizes UPMC’s commitment to our patients and showcases how we are leading the way in the development of new technologies and methods of care.”

Nationally, UPMC is ranked for excellence in 15 of 16 specialty areas, and is among the top 10 hospitals in six specialties: ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology; gynecology; psychiatry; pulmonology; and rheumatology.

U.S. News analyzed 4,743 medical centers in the nation, but only those that achieved high scores in six or more specialties were included in the distinguished Honor Roll group. Scores were based on a variety of factors including hospital volume, patient safety, outcomes and reputation for delivering high-quality care.

Last month, U.S. News named its 2014 Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals, recognizing Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC as 9th in the country.

Pitt Researchers Receive $2.1 Million to Study Prevention of Deadly Lung Injury

PITTSBURGH, July 10, 2014 – University of Pittsburgh researchers have received $2.17 million from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to study the prevention and early treatment of acute lung injury. Also known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), acute lung injury is a deadly condition that causes the lung to fail in critically ill patients either directly through injury to the lung, such as pneumonia, or indirectly related to another illness.

“Many serious illnesses harm the lung, even when that illness starts elsewhere in the body. A trauma patient may develop ARDS as a result of blood loss or treatments. Severe infection, even outside of the lung, is also a major trigger for ARDS,” said Donald. M. Yealy, M.D., professor and chair of Pitt’s Department of Emergency Medicine. Pitt and UPMC investigators recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine a landmark study that brought new insights into early treatment of sepsis, a deadly form of infection. Dr. Yealy and co-lead investigator Derek C. Angus, M.D., M.P.H., Distinguished Professor and Mitchell P. Fink Chair, Department of Critical Care Medicine at Pitt, are members of the steering committee for the Pennsylvania region of the multi-center Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung injury (PETAL) network.

The network, which includes a unique combination of emergency physicians and critical care specialists, will conduct clinical trials to prevent, treat and improve the outcome of patients with ARDS.

“Once lung injury is embedded, it often causes death or long-term damage. Our goal is to recognize the onset of ARDS and treat it before it can do serious harm to the lung,” Dr. Angus said.

Other collaborating and clinical PETAL centers include Penn State University-Hershey Medical Center, University of Colorado, University of California-San Francisco, Harvard University, Tufts University, University of Washington-Seattle, University of Utah-Intermountain Health Center, Wake Forest University, Vanderbilt University, Mount Sinai Medical Center, University of Michigan, Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University.

The PETAL network is funded by NIH grant #1U01HL123020-01.

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