Metabolic Profiling of Liver Cells Suggests New Treatments for Cirrhosis Patients
In a new study that could help doctors extend the lives of patients awaiting liver transplants, a Rice University-led team of researchers examined the metabolic breakdown that takes place in liver cells during late-stage cirrhosis and found clues that suggest new treatments to delay liver failure. The research team included McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Michael Oertel, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez, MD, PhD, assistant professor , Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, and Ira Fox, MD, director of the Center for Innovative Regenerative Therapies and a professor, Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and also scientists from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Innovative Brain Imaging Technology Receives DSF Charitable Foundation Funding
The DSF Charitable Foundation (the charitable-giving organization of the David Scaife family) is providing $1.8 million over 3 years to support the study of an innovative brain imaging technology called high-definition fiber tracking (HDFT) for veterans of the U.S. military who have sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded a total of $82,000 to six research groups through its 2013 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members—Alan Wells, MD, Anne Robertson, PhD, and Yadong Wang, PhD—were among three of the research groups receiving these awards.
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Massimo Trucco, MD, is an international leader in the field of immunogenetics, having dedicated his life’s work to finding a cure for diabetes. Dr. Trucco is the Director of the Division of Immunogenetics at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Hillman Professor of Pediatric Immunology at Children’s Hospital, and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Dr. Trucco was born in Savona, Italy. During his medical residency at Regina Marghertia Children’s Hospital, University of Torino, School of Medicine, he worked on research in tissue compatibility, an area directly related to bone marrow transplantation. His curiosity has driven him to move to three countries to study at renowned universities and research institutes, and work side-by-side with two Nobel Prize winners.
Mood-Stabilizing Drug Could Be New Treatment for Inherited Liver Disease
Opening up a can of worms is a good way to start hunting for new drugs, David Perlmutter, MD, physician-in-chief and scientific director, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and a Distinguished Professor and the Vira I. Heinz Endowed Chair, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and researchers from Children’s Hospital and Pitt’s School of Medicine recommend. In a study published in the Public Library of Science One, they used a primitive worm model to show that a drug typically used to treat agitation in schizophrenia and dementia has potential as a treatment for α-1 antitrypsin (AT) deficiency, an inherited disease that causes severe liver scarring.
Pitt Establishes Brain Institute to Unlock Mysteries of the Brain, Discover Novel Therapies
The University of Pittsburgh is creating a new Institute that aims to unlock the mysteries of normal and abnormal brain function, and then use this new information to develop novel treatments and cures for brain disorders. The new Institute will function like a Bell Labs for brain research and provide a special environment to promote innovation and discovery. The goal is to enable investigators to perform high-risk, high-impact neuroscience that will transform lives.
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member John Kellum, MD, a professor of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, a transplant physician in anesthesiology at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, and co-director at the Mechanisms and Novel Therapies for Resuscitation and Acute Illness (MANTRA) Lab, discussed the pathogenesis of acute kidney injury (AKI) as a member of an international panel of critical care experts at the event, “Early AKI Assessment: Are New Biomarkers Rising to the Challenge,” held in conjunction with the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) 43rd Critical Care Congress in San Francisco, California. The panel discussed how new biomarkers for risk assessment of AKI could affect the care of critically ill patients. Dr. Kellum was joined with experts from the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan Health System, and the University of Florida.
Pitt Study Finds Mechanism for Increased Activity of Oncogene in Head and Neck Cancers
In a recent study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Ivet Bahar, PhD, the John K. Vries chair and professor in the Department of Computational & Systems Biology at the University of Pittsburgh and the associate director of the University of Pittsburgh Drug Discovery Institute, and colleagues report the increased activation of a key oncogene in head and neck cancers could be the result of mutation and dysfunction of regulatory proteins that are supposed to keep the gene, which has the potential to cause cancer, in check. The findings, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest a new target for drugs to treat head and neck tumors, as well as other cancers.
Synthetic, man-made cells and ultrathin electronics built from a new form of “zero-dimensional” carbon nanotube may be possible through research at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering co-directed by McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Steven Little, PhD, chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, associate professor, and Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow of the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, and McGowan Institute affiliated faculty member Anna Balazs, PhD, the distinguished Robert Von der Luft professor of chemical and petroleum engineering. The research, ““Zero-Dimensional” Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes,” was recently published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Muscle Morbidity and Reduced Regenerative Capacity
While the widely reported incidence of arsenic use in past centuries for medicinal, industrial, and homicidal purposes has declined dramatically, modern times have seen a resurgence in the attention paid to this organic metalloid. This is due, in large part, to the increasingly recognized presence of arsenic in the food and drinking supplies serving more than 140 million individuals worldwide and nearly 4 million individuals in the United States alone. Unfortunately, the very same characteristic that makes arsenic such an effective tool for acute poisoning also makes it a dangerous environmental contaminant: it is largely undetected because it is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. Increasingly, however, arsenic is being recognized for its adverse, yet clandestine, effects on tissue functioning and regenerative capacity—even at low, everyday concentrations.
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member David Whitcomb, MD, PhD, the Giant Eagle foundation professor of cancer genetics, chief of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, professor of medicine, cell biology and physiology, and founder and director of the Center for Genomic Sciences, was an invited lecturer hosted by the University of Auckland Department of Surgery in New Zealand. As an internationally respected expert in personalized medicine, Dr. Whitcomb spoke of personalized medicine for pancreatic diseases and how that can be applied as a model for other diseases.
Gum Disease Treated by Using Homing Beacon to Bring Needed Immune Cells to Inflamed Area
The red, swollen, and painful gums and bone destruction of periodontal disease could be effectively treated by beckoning the right kind of immune system cells to the inflamed tissues, according to a new pre-clinical study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty members Steven Little, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, and Charles Sfeir, D.D.S., Ph.D., director, Center for Craniofacial Regeneration, and associate professor, Departments of Periodontics and Oral Biology, Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine. Their findings, published in the early online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer a new therapeutic paradigm for a condition that afflicts 78 million people in the U.S. alone.
Burn Therapy: An Award-Winning Regenerative Medicine Approach
The 115th Ladies Hospital Aid Society Gala was held at Pittsburgh’s Omni William Penn. During “An Evening of Enchantment,” McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Jörg Gerlach, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, and Alain Corcos, MD, FACS, director of Trauma Services, UPMC Mercy Hospital, received the Innovation Award in support of their ongoing research to improve the treatment of burn patients. The McGowan Institute received a $25,000 donation for such work and Mercy’s Trauma Services received $50,000.
Traumatic Brain Injury Research Advances with $18.8M NIH Award
The National Institutes of Health is awarding $18.8 million over 5 years to support worldwide research on concussion and traumatic brain injury. The NIH award, part of one of the largest international research collaborations ever coordinated by funding agencies, will be administered through University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and includes McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member David Okonkwo, MD, PhD, assistant professor with the Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, director of Neurotrauma and of the Spinal Deformity Program, clinical director of the Brain Trauma Research Center, and associate director of the Center for Injury Research and Control. Dr. Okonkwo will serve as the principal investigator for the University of Pittsburgh in the award.
Strategic Partnership in Regenerative Medicine Formed With Instron
As reported by Azom.com, Instron, a leading provider of testing equipment designed to evaluate mechanical properties of materials and components, is collaborating with McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Julie Phillippi, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Thomas Gleason, MD, associate professor of surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease, and co-director of the Center for Heart Valve Disease at the Heart, Lung and Esophageal Surgery Institute, both at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Regenerative Medicine Partnership with Cornell University
Scientists at McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine are partnering with innovators at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine to advance healing techniques and technologies for animals and humans.
Pitt Scientists Solve Mystery of Basic Cellular Process
A mix of serendipity and dogged laboratory work allowed a diverse team of University of Pittsburgh scientists to report in Nature Cell Biology that they had solved the mystery of a basic biological function essential to cellular health. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members in this team included:
Drs. Rubin and Marra Comment on Denmark Stem Cell-Enriched Fat Grafts Clinical Study
In Denmark, the first clinical study shows the potential of stem cell-enriched fat grafts to transform reconstructive surgery. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty members—J. Peter Rubin, MD, and Kacey Marra, PhD—weigh in on the results.
Unusual Combination Therapy Shows Promise for Preventing Prostate Cancer
Combining a compound from broccoli with an antimalarial drug prevents prostate cancer in mice, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) researchers—including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Simon Watkins, PhD, and Donna Stolz, PhD—discovered.
Improving the Therapeutic Relevance of Muscle Stem Cells
As reported by the Stem Cell correspondent Stuart P. Atkinson, the research group of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Johnny Huard, PhD (pictured top), professor in the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery, Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, and Pathology, the Henry J. Mankin endowed chair in orthopaedic surgery research, and the director of the Stem Cell Research Center, has previously isolated and characterized muscle-derived stem cells (MDSCs) which have been shown by various groups by being able to undergo osteogenic differentiation given the correct stimuli. They are therefore a potential alternative to bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells for bone tissue engineering. One of these stimuli is continued exposure to bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP), hindered by the short half-lives in vivo and the requirement of maintaining a localized concentration. The team, including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Yadong Wang, PhD (pictured bottom), the William Kepler Whiteford professor in bioengineering with adjunct positions in chemical engineering and surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, has also devised a delivery strategy; a poly(ethylene argininylaspartate diglyceride)(PEAD)-heparin complex loaded with BMP2 which forms an emulsion-like aggregation of organic molecules separated from the aqueous phase, or a coacervate, previously used to effectively deliver fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2) for therapeutic angiogenesis. Now, in a report in Stem Cells Translational Medicine, they report on the use of this system with BMP2 to stimulate osteogenesis in MDSCs in vitro and in vivo.
Risk of Dementia Doubles for Elderly Patients Hospitalized with Infections
University of Pittsburgh researchers, including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Derek Angus, MD, distinguished professor of critical care medicine and the Mitchell P. Fink chair in critical care medicine in Pitt’s School of Medicine, found that elderly patients who were hospitalized with infections, such as pneumonia, were more than twice more likely to develop dementia than those who did not have an infection. The study also found that patients with dementia may be more susceptible to infection. The results of the study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Decellularized Mouse Heart Beats Again after Regeneration with Human Heart Precursor Cells
A Pittsburgh-based team, that includes two McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members, has reported that they have performed a study where a mouse heart was able to contract and beat again after its own cells were stripped and replaced with human heart precursor cells. The McGowan Institute affiliated faculty members who were contributors to the study are Kimimasa Tobita, MD, research assistant, professor of developmental biology, pediatrics, and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh and a director of Rangos Research Center Animal Imaging Core, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Guy Salama, PhD, professor within the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, along with scientists from Pitt School of Medicine. The findings, reported online in Nature Communications, show the promise that regenerating a functional organ by placing human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells – which could be personalized for the recipient – in a three-dimensional scaffold could have for transplantation, drug testing models, and understanding heart development.
Not only does practice make perfect, it also makes for more efficient generation of neuronal activity in the primary motor cortex, the area of the brain that plans and executes movement, according to McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Peter Strick, PhD, and researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Their findings, published online in Nature Neuroscience, showed that practice leads to decreased metabolic activity for internally generated movements, but not for visually guided motor tasks, and suggest the motor cortex is “plastic” and a potential site for the storage of motor skills.
Premature Aging of Immune Cells Present in Joints of Kids with Chronic Arthritis
The joints of children with the most common form of chronic inflammatory arthritis contain immune cells that resemble those of 90-year-olds, according to a new study led by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings, published recently in Arthritis and Rheumatism, suggest that innovative treatment approaches could aim to prevent premature aging of immune cells.
NIH Grant to Study Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injuries Received
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers have been selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to lead a $16.5 million international study to evaluate treatments for pediatric traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Artificial Cells to Study Effects of Molecular Crowding on Gene Expression Developed
The interior of a living cell is a crowded place, with proteins and other macromolecules packed tightly together. A team of scientists at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)—including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Philip LeDuc, PhD, professor of biological sciences and chemistry at CMU—has approximated this molecular crowding in an artificial cellular system and found that tight quarters help the process of gene expression, especially when other conditions are less than ideal.
Placental Cells May Prevent Viruses from Passing from Mother to Baby
Cells of the placenta may have a unique ability to prevent viruses from crossing from an expectant mother to her growing baby and can transfer that trait to other kinds of cells, according to McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Donna Stolz, PhD, associate director of the Center for Biologic Imaging and associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh, and researchers at Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Their findings, published in the early online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed new light on the workings of the placenta and could point to new approaches to combat viral infections during pregnancy.
Dendritic Cell Therapy Improves Kidney Transplant Survival in Preclinical Model
A single systemic dose of special immune cells prevented rejection for almost 4 months in a preclinical animal model of kidney transplantation, according to McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members (pictured top to bottom)
Eleven years ago, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Ron Shapiro, MD, professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and the Robert J. Corry chair in transplantation surgery at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, performed life-changing kidney transplant surgery on patient, Darian DeLuca of Westmoreland County. This year, Ms. DeLuca graduated from Kiski Area High School and when she received her diploma, she took a little part of her uncle, Greg George, with her. Mr. George was her kidney donor for this life-changing living-donor surgery.
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), awarded Qrono Inc. a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant for $256,000 to improve the treatment options for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) and fund further development of the company’s predictive modeling technology for the design of long-acting injectable (LAI) drug formulations. The research will be conducted in collaboration with The Little Lab at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
Recently, the efforts of several McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members were the subject of news highlighting their most recent endeavors, achievements, and honors. Congratulations are extended to each of them. A brief summary of them (in alphabetical order) and their accomplishments follows:
In a paper presented at the American Transplant Congress, Seattle, WA (May 20, 2013), McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Paulo Fontes, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, described the ground breaking results from a study conducted by a multidisciplinary team who designed and assessed the effectiveness of a system to oxygenate harvested livers with a perfusion system so that the condition of the liver can be maintained for an extended period before implantation.
Adding Breast Milk Ingredient to Formula Could Prevent Deadly Intestinal Problem in Premature Babies
An ingredient that naturally occurs in breast milk might be used to prevent premature babies from developing a deadly intestinal condition that currently is largely incurable, according to McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members David Hackam, MD, PhD, Watson Family Professor of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and co-director of the Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Timothy Billiar, MD, George Vance Foster Professor and Chair in the Department of Surgery, and a deputy director in the Molecular Medicine Institute, and researchers at Pitt’s School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
DOD Highlights Breast Cancer Research of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine Faculty Member
The research efforts of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Alan Wells, MD, the Thomas J Gill III professor of pathology and the vice-chairman of the Department of Pathology, the medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Central Laboratory Services, Incorporated, a professor of bioengineering and computational and systems biology (second appointments), and the staff pathologist at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were recently highlighted on the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) website. The BCRP challenges the scientific community to design research that will address the urgency of ending breast cancer. Specifically, the BCRP seeks to accelerate high-impact research with clinical relevance, encourage innovation and stimulate creativity, facilitate multidisciplinary collaborations, and support future breast cancer leaders.