University of Pittsburgh and UPMC researchers are paving the way for genome-targeted treatments in pancreatic cancer, an especially deadly form of cancer with few existing therapeutic options, according to a pair of recent studies.
A novel gene therapy using CRISPR genome editing technology effectively targets cancer-causing “fusion genes” and improves survival in mouse models of aggressive liver and prostate cancers, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers report in a study published online recently in Nature Biotechnology. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members George Michalopoulos, MD, PhD, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, and Satdarshan Monga, MD, Endowed Research Chair in Experimental Pathology and the Vice-Chair of the Division of Experimental Pathology, Department of Pathology at Pitt, are co-authors on the study.
New research from Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering and the University of Pittsburgh reveals that motor cortical neurons optimally adjust how they encode movements in a task-specific manner. The findings enhance our understanding of how the brain controls movement and have the potential to improve the performance and reliability of brain-machine interfaces, or neural prosthetics, that assist paralyzed patients and amputees. McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Andrew Schwartz, PhD, distinguished professor of neurobiology and chair in systems neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a member of the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute, is a co-author on the study.
Like drag car racers revving their engines at the starting line, stem cells respond more quickly to injury when they’ve been previously primed with one dose of a single protein, according to a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine received an $11.7 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to establish a resource center dedicated to advancing therapies for regenerating damaged dental, oral, and craniofacial tissues.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Per the American Heart Association, practicing meditation and mindfulness may reduce death, heart attack, and stroke in heart patients. Meditation is a practice — often using deep breathing, quiet contemplation, or sustained focus on something benign, such as a color, phrase, or sound — that helps you let go of stress and feel peaceful and maintain a relaxed state of mind. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member David Okonkwo, MD, PhD, Professor and Executive Vice Chair of Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, recently was consulted on a very rare canine neurosurgery case. The patient was a 5½ -year-old, female Leonberger named Anchor who underwent spinal surgery at Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Anchor holds expert status in water rescue.
On December 6, 2016, UPMC marked a major medical milestone for the UPMC Lung Transplant Program: its 2000th lung transplant procedure. The Lung Transplant Program was established in 1982 and has become one of the largest and most experienced centers in the world for lung and combined heart-lung transplantation.
The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $77,500 to four research groups through its 2016 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new technology for treatment of diabetes, a medical device for treating patients requiring emergent intubation, an innovative method for bone regeneration, and a novel approach for implementing vascular bypass grafts. Each project includes McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members on its team.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) causes the accumulation of dehydrated mucus in the lungs which can lead to chronic infection, inflammation, and respiratory failure and drastically affects the lives of CF patients. These ever-changing complexities often make it difficult for doctors to decide which therapies will be most effective in treating the disease.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) have discovered molecular changes in the primary tumor of breast cancer patients who developed brain metastases. The finding is expected to lead to improved diagnosis and targeted therapies.
Military personnel are substantially burdened with traumatic bone injury to the extremities, but no ideal therapy is available to regenerate large bone volumes in compromised wounds. These wounds are sub-optimal for regeneration because the vascular damage and immune response provoke oxygen deficiency and inflammation which impair bone growth and drive formation of fibrous tissue.
A multidisciplinary international team of scientists solved the mystery of a recently discovered type of controlled cell death, mapping the path to potential therapies for conditions ranging from radiation injury to cancer. The study, led in part by the University of Pittsburgh, is reported in two papers in Nature Chemical Biology.
Research by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)—including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Simon Watkins, PhD, founder and director of the Center for Biologic Imaging at the University of Pittsburgh—has revealed how cancer cells hijack DNA repair pathways to prevent telomeres, the endcaps of chromosomes, from shortening, thus allowing the tumor to spread. The findings are published in the journal Cell Reports.
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, PhD, the J.C. Warner Professor of Natural Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), is co-founder of BioHybrid Solutions, a start-up company founded at CMU which is developing a protein enhancement technology platform. The team at BioHybrid Solutions transforms proteins into efficient therapeutics and catalysts using patented protein-polymer conjugation technology. Protein-based therapeutics are used to treat viral infections, cancer, immune disorders, spinal cord injury, and other conditions. Furthermore, proteins (of which enzymes are a subclass) have broad applications in many areas, like biofuel production, decontamination and sensing technologies for protection against chemical warfare, or protein-based catalysis for pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
For as long as scientists have been listening in on the activity of the brain, they have been trying to understand the source of its noisy, apparently random, activity. In the past 20 years, “balanced network theory” has emerged to explain this apparent randomness through a balance of excitation and inhibition in recurrently coupled networks of neurons. A team of scientists has extended the balanced model to provide deep and testable predictions linking brain circuits to brain activity.
A team of University of Pittsburgh researchers—including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Louis Falo, MD, PhD, and Valerian Kagan, PhD, DSc—has demonstrated that a newly developed topical therapy applied before or after radiation exposure prevents skin damage in both animal and human models.
Although cerebral aneurysms affect a substantial portion of the adult population, the risk of treatment including open brain surgery often outweighs the risks associated with rupture. With increasing numbers of unruptured aneurysms detected using noninvasive imaging techniques, there is an urgent need for a reliable method to distinguish aneurysms vulnerable to impending rupture from those that are presently robust and can be safely monitored. An international research team led by the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve risk assessment and treatment of this devastating disease.
A significant grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will help to fund advanced brain research at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC focused on deeper understanding of how speech is controlled in the brain. The research team will study patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) while they undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery.
A lead gift of $600,000 from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation will help the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute (UPBI) launch groundbreaking interdisciplinary projects to advance research on normal brain function and its impairment in a range of disorders. With matching funds from internal sources, the UPBI is distributing a total of $925,000 to five projects managed by Pitt faculty that address paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, adolescent substance use, obsessive compulsive disorder, and brain computation. The funding also will support the growth of a UPBI Brain Bank to further research. Two of the selected projects will be managed by McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members:
Two vaccines against Zika virus developed at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have successfully conveyed immunity from female mice to pups conceived weeks after the mother’s vaccination.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)—including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Simon Watkins, PhD, founder and director of the Center for Biologic Imaging at the University of Pittsburgh—have demonstrated how Rad4, a protein involved in DNA repair, scans the DNA in a unique pattern of movement called “constrained motion” to efficiently find structural faults in DNA. The findings, reported recently in the journal Molecular Cell, could lead to therapies that boost existing drug treatments and counter drug-resistance.
The Pittsburgh Liver Research Center (PLRC) Grant Review Committee has selected the awardees for the 2016-2017 grants. Congratulations to the following McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine awardees of the 1-year PLRC Pilot and Feasibility Grants:
Combining ultrasound energy and microbubbles to poke holes in cells may prove to be a new tool in the fight against cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. A study on this gene therapy approach, called sonoporation, appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Flordeliza Villanueva, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology and Vice Chair for Pre-Clinical Research of the Department of Medicine, and Simon Watkins, PhD, Founder and Director of the Center for Biologic Imaging at the University of Pittsburgh, member of the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and also a Professor and Vice Chairman within the Department of Cell Biology, are co-authors on the study.
The microenvironment that supports a cancerous tumor also starves the immune cells that the body sends in to destroy the cancer, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) scientists revealed in a discovery that holds the potential to significantly boost the performance of breakthrough immunotherapy drugs.
Not only is breast cancer more than one disease, but a single breast cancer tumor can vary within itself, a finding that University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) researchers—including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Steffi Oesterreich, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at the UPCI—discovered has the potential to lead to very different patient treatment plans depending on the tumor sample and diagnostic testing used.
The National Institutes of Health has awarded McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member David Vorp, PhD, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering and Associate Dean for Research of the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, and colleagues with a grant worth more than $1.54 million to fund their study investigating artificial stem cells in the development of engineered vascular grafts. Dr. Vorp is joined on this study by McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine colleagues Steven Little, PhD, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Chemical Engineering; William Wagner, PhD, Professor of Surgery and Director of the McGowan Institute; and Justin Weinbaum, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Bioengineering; along with Pitt colleague Morgan Fedorchak, PhD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology.
Injecting modified, human, adult stem cells directly into the brains of chronic stroke patients proved not only safe but effective in restoring motor function, according to the findings of a small clinical trial led by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators. Approximately 1/3 of the patients received their treatment at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Pitt portion of the study was under the leadership of Lawrence Wechsler, MD, Henry B. Higman Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology, and Vice President for Telemedicine, UPMC.
Traumatic facial injuries — from motor vehicle accidents, gunshots, military combat, or other incidents — can cause debilitating effects, such as sunken, jagged facial features and increased scarring. While surgeons can often reconstruct the bones of the face, it’s difficult to return the soft tissue back to its original form. Experts at the UPMC Center for Innovation in Restorative Medicine (CIRM) are researching a new form of facial reconstruction, called fat grafting, to improve soft tissue deformities in the head and face. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member J. Peter Rubin, MD, Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery and the UPMC Endowed Professor of Plastic Surgery, as well as Professor of Bioengineering, is the Founding Director of CIRM.
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—including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Jonathan D’Cunha, MD, PhD, James Luketich, MD, and Christian Bermudez, MD—in the largest study of its kind to date. The results provide critical information that will hopefully lead to better care of transplant recipients.
Researchers led by Carnegie Mellon University Professor of Biological Sciences Chien Ho, PhD, have developed a new method for preparing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that not only leads to the production of more native stem cells, but also labels them with an FDA-approved iron-oxide nanoparticle (Ferumoxytol). The technology could allow researchers to track the cells in vivo using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during preclinical and clinical trials. Dr. Ho is a McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member.
The National Institutes of Health has awarded McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member David Vorp, PhD, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering and Associate Dean for Research of the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, with a 2-year, $417,838 R21 grant for research into the use of cells from a patient’s own adipose (fat) as vascular grafts in arterial bypass surgery. This new method, which has been successful in rat subjects, would allow surgeons to perform bypass surgeries without harvesting arteries or veins from the patient or requiring the time to isolate and grow a specific cell type, such as a stem cell.
According to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a 24-hour exposure to bright blue light before surgery reduces inflammation and organ damage at the cellular level in a mouse model. The finding, reported recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests a potential pre-treatment light therapy that could improve outcomes in patients undergoing procedures characterized by a period of blood restriction, such as liver resection or organ transplantation. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Derek Angus, MD, MPH, Distinguished Professor and the Mitchell P. Fink Endowed Chair of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and the Director of the CRISMA (Clinical Research, Investigation, and Systems Modeling of Acute Illnesses) Center at the University of Pittsburgh, is a co-author on the study.
In the 3 years following bariatric surgery, the majority of patients experienced an improvement in pain and walking ability, as well as a lessening of the degree to which back or leg pain interfered with work, according a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health-led analysis of a multi-site clinical study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Steven Belle, PhD, MScHyg, Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, and a Co-Director in the Epidemiology Data Center in the Graduate School of Public Health, is a co-author on the study.
As reported by Susan M. Rapp for Healio, spine surgery patients at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) who had impaired preoperative nutrition based on levels of prealbumin less than 20 mg/dL had an increased risk of developing a surgical site infection, according to McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member David Okonkwo, MD, PhD, at Spine Summit 2016: CNS/AANS Section on Disorders of the Spine & Peripheral Nerves Annual Meeting.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, along with collaborators at Penn State University’s Chemistry Department, have discovered a novel way of utilizing the chemical reactions of certain enzymes to trigger self-powered mechanical movement.
Experts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are leading the second arm of a clinical trial using gene therapy to relieve the symptoms of tremor and mobility impairment in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The technique shows promise in prolonging the effectiveness of levo-dopa, the mainstay treatment for the progressive neurodegenerative condition, by increasing production of a key enzyme essential to convert the drug into the neurotransmitter dopamine.
UPMC and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine doctors—including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Derek Angus, MD, MPH, the Dr. Mitchell P. Fink Professor and chair of Pitt’s Department of Critical Care Medicine—played a central role in a worldwide effort to redefine the No. 1 killer of hospital patients: sepsis.
It is only in the last decade that deep brain stimulation (DBS) technology was refined and widely accepted as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders, according to McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Mark Richardson, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and the Director, Brain Modulation Laboratory, and the Director, Epilepsy and Movement Disorders Surgery Program, both in the Department of Neurological Surgery.
Sedentary behavior is associated with poor cardiovascular health and diabetes in adults with severe obesity, independent of how much exercise they perform, a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health-led study showed for the first time. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Steven Belle, PhD, MScHyg, professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, and a co-director in the Epidemiology Data Center in the Graduate School of Public Health, is a co-author of the study.