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Pitt Shares in $17 Million Federal Grant to Improve Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 30, 2014 – University of Pittsburgh researchers are key players in a national “dream team” that seeks to identify the best biological and imaging markers of traumatic brain injury (TBI) to improve the ability of clinical trials to find effective treatments for the condition, which annually affects 2.5 million people in the U.S., including athletes and soldiers.

The $17 million initiative, called the TBI Endpoints Development (TED) Award, is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and includes many universities, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), companies and philanthropies. It is overseen by the University of California, San Francisco.

“This project is going to redefine how we measure the outcomes for traumatic brain injury studies,” said TED investigator Stephen Wisniewski, Ph.D., senior associate dean and co-director of the Epidemiology Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “We need a more robust, detailed way to determine what challenges a person faces when he suffers a traumatic brain injury, and that is what we’re setting out to accomplish with this ambitious study.”

Under Dr. Wisniewski’s leadership, Pitt Public Health will run the data analysis for the project, meaning the school will compile data from previous studies and analyze it to see what existing methods for measuring traumatic brain injuries prove most promising. That information will be used as a launch point for clinical evaluation in real-life situations.

David Okonkwo, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurological surgery and clinical director of the Brain Trauma Research Center at Pitt’s School of Medicine, is co-leading the second branch of the project to test those findings through the previously announced $18.8 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) project called Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in TBI, or TRACK-TBI.

“In the clinical component of the TED project, we will take the insights Dr. Wisniewski and his team gather from their systematic review of previous research and apply that to real-world TBI cases,” said Dr. Okonkwo. “If we can more accurately identify and quantify these injuries, we will be better able to select appropriate patients for clinical trials and to evaluate the success or failure of our therapies.”

TED will examine data from thousands of patients to identify effective measures of brain injury and recovery, using biomarkers from blood, new imaging equipment and software, and other tools. The research collaborators will be collecting a broad range of long-term data from existing studies and databases, and integrating these into a dataset that can be interrogated for TBI associations and causes in a way that has never before been possible.

The project is specifically designed to overcome the difficulty in demonstrating the effectiveness of TBI drugs and medical devices by actively involving the FDA in clinical-trial design from the outset. It also fosters collaboration between the DOD, the NIH, foundation-funded research networks, industry co-sponsors such as General Electric, and patient advocacy groups to try to develop procedures, outcomes measures and standards for interpreting clinical data.

Each year, more than 2.5 million people in the U.S. seek medical care for traumatic brain injuries that arise when blows to the body or nearby explosions cause the brain to collide with the inside of the skull. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 2 percent of the U.S. population now lives with TBI-caused disabilities, at an annual cost of about $77 billion. No TBI treatment has proved to be effective.

“TBI is really a multifaceted condition, not a single event,” said UCSF neurosurgeon Geoffrey T. Manley, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator for the new award and chief of neurosurgery at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, a UCSF partner hospital. “TBI lags 40 to 50 years behind heart disease and cancer in terms of progress and understanding of the actual disease process and its potential aftermath. More than 30 clinical trials of potential TBI treatments have failed, and not a single drug has been approved.”

Pitt Public Health to Strengthen Public Health Workforce with $3.4 Million Training Center

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 29, 2014 – The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health will receive nearly $3.4 million from the federal government over the next four years to establish and operate a training center intended to improve the nation’s public health system.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) selected Pitt Public Health to create the Region 3 Public Health Training Center to serve Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. It also will serve as the health informatics training center for the entire country.

The center will provide free training sessions to public health professionals on a variety of topics, ranging from behavioral health programming for smoking cessation to computer programs that track an infectious disease spread and simulate interventions to stop it.

“This is a critical investment in our nation’s public health infrastructure and represents a wonderful opportunity for Pitt Public Health to further share our innovations in data collection and analysis,” said Margaret Potter, J.D., M.S., principal investigator of the grant and professor of health policy and management at Pitt Public Health.

Pitt Public Health has served as the Public Health Training Center for Pennsylvania for the past 14 years. In the new regionalization of the HRSA training centers, Pitt Public Health will oversee local training sites run by Drexel University School of Public Health, which will serve eastern Pennsylvania; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which will serve Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia; the Virginia Department of Health, which will serve Virginia; and West Virginia University School of Public Health, which will serve West Virginia.

“Monitoring for air and water pollution, inspecting restaurants for food safety, containing infectious disease outbreaks — these are all examples of the crucial work done by people who serve in our public health sector,” said Ms. Potter. “In order for public health professionals to keep up with the latest technical developments in their fields, they need formal continuing education programs. That’s what the training center provides.”

Due to Pitt Public Health’s prowess in collecting, analyzing and disseminating health-related data, the Region 3 Public Health Training Center will run sessions in health informatics nationwide. The school’s Public Health Dynamics Laboratory has developed programs including Project TychoTM, the Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics (FRED) and the LEgal Network Analyzer (LENA), which can assist public health professionals in making decisions based on real-world data.

“Local public health departments collect a treasure trove of data. However, they often don’t have the time, personnel or resources to turn that data into useful information that will inform their work,” said Ms. Potter. “What we’ll be able to do is give them the tools and the training to do their own analyses quickly and efficiently.”

For example, knowing how to use certain data analysis programs, such as the ones developed by Pitt Public Health, during a disease outbreak could help a public health department make decisions on how to allocate its budget, what expertise it might need to bring in to manage the outbreak, and what laws or policies might support or constrain the response.

Renowned Robotic Thoracic and Esophageal Surgeon Joins UPMC

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 25, 2014 – A thoracic surgeon who specializes in the minimally invasive treatment of malignant and benign diseases of the chest has joined the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery under the direction of James D. Luketich, MD.

Inderpal S. Sarkaria, MD, FACS, joined the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UPMC as Director of Thoracic Robotic Surgery, Vice Chairman for Clinical Affairs, and Co-Director of the Esophageal Surgery Institute.

Dr. Sarkaria has extensive expertise and experience in minimally invasive and Video Assisted Thoracic Surgical (VATS) approaches including esophagectomy for esophageal cancer, VATS lobectomy for lung cancer, VATS thymectomy, laparoscopic anti-refux surgery for GERD, laparoscopic surgery for achalasia, laparoscopic repair of giant paraesophageal hernias (GPEH), and robotic-assisted approaches to these conditions.

Dr. Sarkaria is also a member of and has lectured extensively at several major national and international thoracic surgical societies, and has been involved with committees for resident and fellow education, health care policy, and neuroendocrine lung tumors.

Pitt Rheumatology Division Named Part of NIH Network for Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis Study

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 24, 2014 – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today that it has awarded five-year grants to 11 research centers across the United States in a private-public partnership designed to better identify and develop new diagnostics and drugs for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus. The Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, led by chief Larry W. Moreland, M.D., has been chosen as one of the research sites – the only one between the states of New York and Colorado.

“From our perspective, this is a tremendous collaborative effort involving physicians and researchers across disciplines, including basic scientists, clinical researchers, orthopaedic surgeons, radiologists and numerous clinical rheumatologists,” said Dr. Moreland. The lab of Mandy McGeachy, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, will direct the basic science effort for the Pitt team.

Under this NIH Accelerated Medicines Partnership:

  • Pitt’s research team will collect data from a large group of patients already participating in NIH-funded research. The project aims to unravel biological pathways involved in RA by examining surgical tissue samples, performing ultrasound-guided biopsies of inflamed joints, and utilizing specialized tissue processing for immune-cell analytics, as well as conducting other tests. The team also has proposed a clinical study in which patients who haven’t responded to first-line therapy with methotrexate will be randomized to receive a biologic therapy.
  • Members of the 11 network centers – totaling 18 principal investigators – will collaborate as a consortium, starting with a meeting scheduled for the end of October.
  • The incentivized research plan consists of a seed grant from the NIH, which then may award larger sums moving forward dependent upon the progress of the research and further studies to follow.

The NIH news release can be found on its site.

Pitt Drug Discovery Researchers Receive $5.8 Million Federal Grant to Build 3D Liver Model

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 23, 2014 – With a new $5.8 million, three-year award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine will further develop a state-of-the-art, microfluidic 3D model system that mimics structure and function of the liver to better predict organ physiology, assess drug toxicity and build disease models.

The funding supports the next phase of the NIH’s Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program, which aims to improve ways of predicting drug safety and effectiveness. Researchers from 11 institutions will collaborate over three years to refine existing 3-D human tissue chips and combine them into an integrated system that can mimic the complex functions of the human body.

“We are very enthusiastic about the potential of these microphysiology systems to serve as powerful platforms for studying human diseases and identifying human toxic liabilities,” said the Pitt project’s principal investigator D. Lansing Taylor, Ph.D., Allegheny Foundation Professor of Computational and Systems Biology, Pitt School of Medicine, and director, University of Pittsburgh Drug Discovery Institute.

“The development of tissue chips is a remarkable marriage of biology and engineering, and has the potential to transform preclinical testing of candidate treatments, providing valuable tools for biomedical research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

The Pitt research team, along with additional collaborators, is creating models of the functional unit of the liver, called the acinus, using human liver cells and eventually liver cells derived from precursor cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells, as well as three additional cell types. The liver platform includes microfluidic devices, human cells, engineered matrix materials, fluorescence-based biosensors for real-time physiological read-outs, and biochemical and mass spectrometry measurements to determine acute and chronic toxicity effects. They also will build a “microphysiology database” to manage, analyze and model the data collected from the liver constructs.

With such a platform, biomedical scientists will be able to test treatment efficacy in conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver cancer and breast cancer that has spread to the liver, as well as liver damage including immune-mediated toxicology and fibrosis.  Also, a team of institutions and investigators has been assembled to integrate the liver, kidney and gut models to recapitulate the organ system that is central to drug absorption and metabolism.

The integrated platform will involve the creation of a universal medium, the development of the proper “scaling” of the interacting organ constructs, physiologically relevant flow, incorporation of a micro-formulator to add factors from missing organs and micro-analyzers for monitoring parameters such as pH and oxygen.

Fifteen NIH Institutes and Centers are involved in the coordination of the tissue chip program. Current funding is being provided by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the National Cancer Institute, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH Common Fund and NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health.

Collaborators include Martin Yarmush, M.D., Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital; John Wikswo, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University; Jonathan Himmelfarb, M.D., of the University of Washington; Mark Donowitz, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University; and Mary Estes, Ph.D., of Baylor University.

Adding Chemotherapy to Radiation Treatment Not Effective in Treating Vulvar Cancer, UPMC Study Shows

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 18 - The addition of chemotherapy to post-surgical radiation treatment is not effective in treating vulvar cancer, according to Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC research presented this week in San Francisco at the 56th annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

Vulvar cancer is extremely rare, accounting for just 4 percent of gynecologic cancers and 0.6 percent of cancers women face in the U.S. each year. Led by Sushil Beriwal, M.D., associate professor with the department of radiation oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and radiation oncologist at Magee, this study identified patients diagnosed with vulvar cancer between 1998 and 2011 who had undergone surgery to remove the cancer and required adjuvant radiation therapy because the disease had spread to their lymph nodes.

The study utilized the National Cancer Database, a nationwide oncology outcomes database, to identify 1,087 patients who underwent chemotherapy treatment in addition to radiation therapy after their initial surgery to remove the cancer. The study took into account factors including age, race, insurance coverage, tumor size and spread of the disease.

“Our study found that overall, the addition of chemotherapy to adjuvant radiation therapy did not improve patient survival,” said Dr. Beriwal. “While retrospective studies do impose some limits on our conclusion, we found that at the very least, use of concurrent chemotherapy should be carefully evaluated on an individual basis.”

While the study didn’t confirm a benefit of the addition of adjuvant chemotherapy to treatment, Dr. Beriwal said it is important to share the findings because they move researchers one step closer to understanding how to most effectively treat vulvar cancer.

 

Third Mellon Scholar Appointed to The Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 17, 2014 – Bernhard Kühn, M.D., a physician-scientist whose research focuses on heart failure, has been named a Scholar within the Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research and Director of Research for the Division of Cardiology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Dr. Kühn is the third physician-scientist in the Mellon Scholars Program, which enables promising researchers in the early stages of their careers to pursue potential breakthrough research projects in biomedicine.

Dr. Kühn is a board-certified and practicing pediatric cardiologist whose research focuses on regenerative therapies for the heart. The long-term objective of his research is to provide novel approaches and molecular targets for the treatment of heart failure, primarily by studying the mechanisms of growth and regeneration of the myocardium, the muscle tissue of the heart.

“The recruitment of Dr. Kühn will bring in one of the leading researchers in heart regeneration to further explore heart cell growth and to give hope to advancing  treatments for heart failure, said Jay Kolls, M.D., director. “He will be an outstanding addition to the Mellon Scholar Program to continually increase our understanding of the causes and treatment of pediatric diseases.”

Dr. Kühn, also associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, earned his medical and doctoral degrees from Freie Universität Berlin in Germany. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital where he then established an independent research lab in 2005.

In a landmark paper published in the highly prestigious journal Cell, Dr. Kühn showed that heart muscle cells, previously thought to be incapable of proliferating, could be induced to divide with the growth factor neuregulin1. This research has opened up the possibility of using this growth factor to stimulate heart regeneration. In a follow up study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Kühn lab showed that in humans, heart muscle cell proliferation is a mechanism of heart growth in infants and children. Together, these two papers provide the foundation for administering the growth factor to stimulate heart regeneration in pediatric patients with heart failure.

Scholars are selected on the basis of work that is highly innovative, delivering new expertise to the biomedical research community; likely to lead to major breakthroughs; and capable of having a long-lasting impact on the practice of medicine.

Stephen Maricich, M.D., Ph.D., and Timothy Sanders, M.D., Ph.D., were the first two physician-scientists recruited for the Mellon Scholars Program.

Established through a groundbreaking gift from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Institute is an incubator for research that challenges conventional wisdom and can lead to paradigm shifts in pediatric medicine. This kind of high-risk, high-impact investigation is not typically funded through government or conventional sources, placing Children’s Hospital in a unique realm of pediatric research centers. Dr. Kolls’ goal is to recruit a total of five scholars.

Located within the John G. Rangos Sr. Research Center on Children’s main campus, the Institute’s faculty and programs are a part of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. For more information on The Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research, please visit www.chp.edu/mellon.

Genetic Discovery Yields Prostate Cancer Test, Promise of Future Therapy

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 15, 2014 – A genetic discovery out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is leading to a highly accurate test for aggressive prostate cancer and identifies new avenues for treatment.

The analysis, published today in the American Journal of Pathology, found that prostate cancer patients who carry certain genetic mutations have a 91 percent chance of their cancer recurring. This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Cancer Society and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).

“Being able to say, with such certainty, that a patient is nearly guaranteed to see a recurrence of his prostate cancer means that doctors and patients can elect to be more aggressive in treating the cancer, knowing that the benefits likely outweigh the risks,” said Jian-Hua Luo, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology, Pitt School of Medicine and member of UPCI. “Eventually, this could lead to a cure for prostate cancer through genetic therapy. With this discovery, we’re at the tip of the iceberg in terms of possibilities for improving patient outcomes.”

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men (behind skin cancer), with one in seven men diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year in the U.S., about 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed, and 29,480 men will die of prostate cancer.

Despite the high incidence rate, only a fraction of men diagnosed with prostate cancer develop metastases, and even fewer die from the disease.

“In some cases, this can make the treatment more dangerous than the disease, so doctors need more accurate tests to tell them which patients would most benefit from aggressive therapies, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy,” said Dr. Luo.

Dr. Luo and his team sequenced the entire genome of prostate tissue samples from five prostate cancer patients who experienced aggressive recurrence of their cancer and compared them to normal tissue samples from men without cancer.

In the patients with prostate cancer recurrence, they identified 76 genetic fusion transcripts, which are hybrid genes formed from two previously separate genes and often are associated with cancer. After further testing, eight of the genetic fusion transcripts were found to be strongly associated with prostate cancer.

The researchers then screened for the eight fusion transcripts in 127 samples from patients with aggressive prostate cancer recurrence, 106 samples from prostate cancer patients with no recurrence at least five years after surgery, and 46 samples from prostate cancer patients with no recurrence less than five years after surgery. The samples came from UPMC, Stanford University Medical Center and University of Wisconsin Madison Medical Center.

In those samples, 91 percent with aggressive recurrence of their prostate cancer were positive for at least one of the fusion transcripts. Two of the fusion transcripts in particular were strongly associated with poor outcomes — none of the patients whose samples contained them survived to five years.

In contrast, 68 percent of patients whose samples did not contain at least one of the transcripts remained cancer-free.

Dr. Luo said if continued clinical trials of the test do well, it could be available to all prostate cancer patients in a few years.

In addition, studies are being developed to further investigate the genetic fusion transcripts most strongly associated with aggressive prostate cancer. Drugs and therapies could be developed to correct or stop the mutations, thereby halting the cancer progression, Dr. Luo explained.

Additional researchers on this study are Yan P. Yu, M.D., Ph.D., Ying Ding, Ph.D., Zhanghui Chen, Ph.D., Silvia Liu, B.S., Amantha Michalopoulos, B.S., Riu Chen, B.S., Kathleen Cieply, M.S., Alyssa Luvison, B.S., Bao-Guo Ren, M.D., Joel B. Nelson, M.D., George Michalopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., and George C. Tseng, Sc.D., all of Pitt; Zulfiqar G. Gulzar, Ph.D., and James D. Brooks, M.D., both of Stanford; and Bing Yang, Ph.D., and David Jarrard, M.D., both of the University of Wisconsin.

This research was supported by the NIH grants RO1 CA098249 and 1U01CA152737-01, American Cancer Society grant RSG-08-137-01-CNE and UPCI.

New Pitt Center to Advance Research on Technology, Media and Health

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 15, 2014 – Would celebratory music and a thousand “points” per pill encourage a patient with heart disease to take her medication? If social media friends congratulate an overweight person for skipping dessert, will it help him shed pounds?

Conversely, do song lyrics glorifying alcohol use inspire binge drinking in teens? Does continuous exposure to images of negative TV news footage influence depression or anxiety?

The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences today announced the creation of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH) to tackle questions like these across a broad range of disciplines.

“Technological innovation has proceeded so rapidly that youths ages 8 to 18 are now exposed to more than eight hours a day of electronic media messages outside of school,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine. “While these emerging exposures pose risks to health, they also may be leveraged to improve health.”

As the recently appointed assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences, Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., will direct the new center, which is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Internet, social media, television, films, music and video games are all examples of media and technology that can affect our health and wellness,” said Dr. Primack, associate professor of medicine, pediatrics, and clinical and translational science in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “These exposures may have positive or negative influences, and educational and policy-related interventions may be effective at buffering negative influences and bolstering positive ones.”

Last week, Dr. Primack gave a related talk in San Francisco at “TEDMED 2014: Unlocking Imagination,” a three-day gathering designed to drive innovation in health and medicine. The event featured short, thought-provoking talks by speakers invited based on their expertise, innovation and passion in their field.

Dr. Primack, also a practicing family physician, gave the 12-minute presentation to get ideas flowing about how to simultaneously mitigate the negative effects of video games while also harnessing their potential to improve health.

CRMTH faculty and staff will explore this concept and other related topics through collaborations with numerous schools and centers at Pitt, including the Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Dental Medicine, Public Health, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Social Work, as well as Pitt’s Health Policy Institute.

“U.S. and international health policy needs to embrace the development of technology and recognize its impacts on human health,” said Everette James, J.D., M.B.A., director of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute and the M. Allen Pond Professor of Health Policy and Management in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. “While technological advancement and the influence of media present challenges, research from our new center will provide important scientific evidence and help inform policymaking in this emerging field.”

In addition to performing research and developing and testing interventions, CRMTH will include an educational component to integrate an awareness of the impact of media and technology on health for students in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences.

CRMTH is funded by NIH, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the ABMRF/The Alcohol Research Foundation, and pilot grants from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the Pitt Health Policy Institute.

Pitt-Developed Vaccine Proves Effective Against Deadly Middle East Virus

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 12, 2014 – A vaccine developed by an international team of scientists led by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine successfully protects mice against a contagious and deadly virus spreading across the Middle East. The vaccine is a promising candidate for immunizing camels, thought to be the source of human infection.

Details of the new immunization against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are published online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Vaccine.

“MERS poses an emerging threat worldwide and has infected people in several Middle Eastern countries, with some unwittingly bringing the virus to other countries, including the U.S., through air travel,” said senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., an associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Surgery. “However, scientists now believe that by vaccinating camels against MERS, we may be able to reduce transmission to humans and stave off the spread of this deadly virus.”

There have been 837 cases of MERS confirmed to date, including 291 deaths. According to the World Health Organization, symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, with respiratory failure in severe illnesses. However, some people can be infected and show no symptoms, despite being contagious and spreading the virus to others.

Strains of MERS that match human strains have been isolated from camels in the Middle Eastern countries where MERS is spreading. Camels are an important animal in the Middle East and are used for transportation and as a food source.

Dr. Gambotto and his colleagues created a vaccine that encodes for a characteristic protein found on the surface of the MERS virus. The vaccine primes the immune system to detect the protein and fight the virus.

The team injected mice with the vaccine and gave them boosters through the nose three weeks later. All the immunized mice had antibody responses against the MERS protein.

“Since this vaccine is effective in mice, we believe it warrants testing in camels so we can determine if they have a similar immune response,” said Dr. Gambotto. “If we can protect camels against MERS, we may make it so difficult for MERS to infect people that its threat to the human population is significantly diminished.”

Additional authors on this research include Eun Kim, Ph.D., Kaori Okada, Ph.D., and Tom Kenniston, M.S., all of Pitt; V. Stalin Raj, Ph.D., Albert D.M.E. Osterhaus, Ph.D., and Bart L. Haagmans, Ph.D., all of the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands; Mohd M. AlHajri, Ph.D., and Elmoubasher A.B.A. Farag, Ph.D., both of the Supreme Council of Health in Qatar; and Farhoud AlHajri, Ph.D., of the Ministry of Environment in Qatar.

The article’s digital object identifier (DOI) is  10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.08.058.

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