a man presenting to a crowd in a lab at UPMC

2015 Breathing Breakthroughs by UPMC – November

November 23,2015

In honor of pulmonary hypertension awareness month, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Comprehensive Pulmonary Hypertension Program reached out to our local PH Community to organize our first annual University of Pittsburgh/UPMC PH Patient Research Day. We invited people to hear more about the major discoveries in this past year in the field of pulmonary hypertension research, and also learn what researchers are doing right here in Pittsburgh. It was an honor to share our work with those we hope to help through new discoveries, to answer great questions and give a glimpse into the world of research.

Dr. Steve Chan, Director of the Center for Pulmonary Vascular Biology and Medicine, spoke first, highlighting ways UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh are devoted to accelerating discoveries about this disease and ensuring these discoveries are applied directly to improve the lives of our patients. He talked about the center’s focus on innovative ways to identify this disease early such that prevention of this disease may be a reality, to identify the elusive molecules that lie at the beginning origins of this disease, and to develop new treatments that could reverse or cure this disease. Finally he shared his innovative work in the role of iron-sulfur cluster formation in pulmonary hypertension.

Dr. Marc Simon spoke about the past year’s exciting advances in PAH resulting from clinical research resulting in FDA approvals of upfront combination therapy of tadalafil and ambrisentan as well as an oral formulation of the prostacyclin treprostinil. He then shared what is happening here at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh where we are actively researching the next generation of therapies in patients, including novel therapies of existing pathways (nitrite, IP receptor agonist) and exciting new pathways (kinase inhibitors and immunomodulation).

Finally, Dr. Roger Alvarez shared his research in novel ways to examine the blood vessels in people with PH. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a new kind of imaging technology, performed during a routine right heart catheterization, and uses near infrared frequency light to take detailed pictures of the inside of the pulmonary artery. He hopes to use this technology to better understand each patient’s disease and develop the best treatment regimens for every patient.

After lunch and three brief lectures, the group was divided into small groups to tour the labs in the University of Pittsburgh Vascular Medicine Institute. In small groups our researchers were eager to share their work and show people a behind-the-scenes glimpse into PH research. From cells to humans, waveforms to microscopy and PCR, we covered techniques and projects that we hope will lead to further understanding about PAH and more effective treatments in the future.

In addition our web colleagues brought the event live to the public through live tweeting of the event (#PHresearch) and tours through Periscope. One high tech highlight was answering two excellent questions off Twitter that came to us from PHA Headquarters in Maryland.

We thank everyone who attended and participated from afar, and look forward to doing this again in the future!

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