NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Archive for May, 2017

Inhibiting Certain Protein in Severe Asthma Patients Could Improve Treatment

Inhibiting Certain Protein in Severe Asthma Patients Could Lead to Better Treatment OutcomesThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that around 25 million Americans have asthma.

Of those, around 90 to 95 percent are considered to have mild or moderate asthma, which is generally well controlled by medications, including corticosteroids. The remaining 5 to 10 percent are afflicted with what is termed “severe” or “steroid-refractory” asthma, which is controlled very poorly, if at all, by the usual medications. Individuals with this form have a very poor quality of life, and severe asthma is estimated to be responsible for about half of the $56 billion in yearly economic impact attributable to the disease overall in the U.S.

Experts from the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC previously published work demonstrating that about 50 percent of the severe asthma cases are characterized by an immune system response that is different than in milder disease and involves an inflammatory protein called interferon-gamma.

Using mice with severe asthma, researchers found that interferon-gamma was responsible for promoting airway constriction as seen in human asthma leading to difficulty breathing. New research recently published in JCI Insight aimed at blocking the immune system’s response that leads to interferon-gamma production and poor lung function.

Corresponding study author Dr. Anuradha Ray from the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute at UPMC and Pitt’s School of Medicine discussed the findings. (more…)

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Expert Highlights Benefits of Reading to Children

Expert Highlights Benefits of Reading to Children

Reading to young children is one of the best ways for them to develop their listening and speaking skills and grow their vocabularies.

Dr. Dawna Duff from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences discusses the benefits of reading to children.

Why should adults read to young children?

A. Reading to kids is a fun way for adults to spend time with the children in their lives. When children read books with adults, they are constantly learning how sounds fit together into words and how to put words into sentences. These language skills will help them excel in reading and writing once they start school, and they will become even more evident in third and fourth grade. Knowing more words also helps children communicate with others and explain their ideas, and it can help to eliminate communication-related frustrations. 

What kinds of books are best to read to young children?

A. The best books for young children contain flaps, things to touch and pictures of faces. Books with repetitive rhyming words and silly sounds help children learn that all letters make a different sound. For example, rhymes like “ball” and “fall” show children the difference between the “b” and “f” sounds. As children start to read and write independently, they will know to pay attention to the first letters in the word.

How can adults help children learn new words?

A. Children learn words from listening to adults speak, but books contain an even broader vocabulary. Studies show that young children don’t naturally look at text when they’re sharing a book with a grownup, so touching the text while reading helps them realize that the written words are related to what the adult is saying.

Rereading books can be tiresome for adults. Is it helpful for kids?

A. Rereading the same book over and over may seem redundant to adults, but it helps children commit new words to memory. Children who hear a new word repeatedly in one story learn more about that word than children who hear the word the same number of times in different books. As children get more familiar with a book, pause and wait for the child to finish the sentences. Explaining new words and asking children questions helps them expand their ability to communicate.

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UPMC McKeesport’s Rev. Matthew Elanjileth turns 96

For patients at UPMC McKeesport, the healing process is accomplished through more than just well-trained doctors, caring nurses and a team of enthusiastic health care professionals. Over the past 36 years, patients also have received the prayers and kindness of of the Rev. Matthew Elanjileth.

At a recent gathering, more than 100 hospital leaders and staff, local community members, as well as retired UPMC McKeesport doctors and colleagues celebrated, Elanjileth’s 96th birthday.

The Rev. Shawn Kirkland, UPMC McKeesport’s chaplain, Mark O’Hern, vice president of operations, Dr. Susan Rakfal, Dr. Ihsan Awan, and Rebecca Shaw McHolme, chairperson of the UPMC McKeesport Board of Directors, each shared their stories of working with Elanjileth over the years, and how his service had so greatly impacted their lives.

“We are here to celebrate Father Matthew’s dedication and commitment to UPMC McKeesport and our patients,” said O’Hern.

In recognition of his dedication to the community, and in honor of his birthday, the prayer room at UPMC McKeesport has been renamed the Fr. Matthew Elanjileth Prayer Room. Inside the prayer room will hang the hospital’s gift to Elanjileth — framed pictures of him with Pope John Paul II and one with Mother Teresa when she visited Pittsburgh at his invitation.

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UPMC East Emergency Department Team Receives DoD Patriot Award

UPMC East Emergency Department Team Receives DoD Patriot AwardsOn Memorial Day, family and friends across the United States gather to celebrate and honor members of the armed services.

UPMC East supports and recognizes the members of its team who are veterans and active duty service men and women. UPMC strives to create a welcoming and accommodating workplace for National Guard and Reserve personnel and others serving in the U.S. military.

In March, members of the UPMC East Emergency Department were recognized with the Patriot Award, presented through a Department of Defense program called the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR), for their efforts supporting advanced patient care technician and seven-year U.S. Army reservist, Juliana Drye, who was ordered to spend over a year away from her job; three months of training and nine months stationed at Guantanamo Bay as a member of the 200th Military Police Battalion.

The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made to support National Guard and Reserve personnel through a wide range of measures, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence, if needed.

Drye joined the UPMC East team in 2013 when she returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. After just a few short years working at UPMC East, Drye was again called upon for another deployment. Her UPMC East colleagues and leadership rallied behind her. (more…)

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Pitt Professor and Leader of International Sepsis Research Reacts to Global Sepsis Resolution

The World Health Assembly and the World Health Organization (WHO) today adopted a resolution to improve, prevent, diagnose and manage sepsis – “a quantum leap in the global fight against sepsis.”

Sepsis—a condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs—is the No. 1 killer of hospital patients, and more than 1 in 5 do not survive. At least 1.5 million sepsis cases occur in the U.S. annually.

Derek Angus

Dr. Derek Angus

Derek Angus, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, has been deeply involved in global efforts to improve sepsis diagnosis and treatment. He served as chair of the International Sepsis Forum for the last two years. In that capacity, he was on the council of the Global Sepsis Alliance, which was the organization that proposed this recommendation to the WHO. Along with Christopher Seymour, M.D, M.Sc., assistant professor in Pitt’s departments of Critical Care Medicine and Emergency Medicine, Angus has several on-going research efforts helping to try to promote the best sepsis care not only in the U.S., but in less well-resourced, lower-income countries.

“As an organization interested in improving sepsis care—both for our patients at UPMC and for all patients through our research at Pitt—we can certainly generally applaud, endorse, welcome this resolution,” said Angus, also director of Pitt’s Clinical Research Investigation and Systems Modeling of Acute Illness Center.


Q: What is the significance of the WHO setting this global priority?

A: WHO has a very deliberative process to try to ensure that governments around the world can be asked to engage in a focused way on particularly pressing problems. That sepsis per se, and not specific infectious challenges, should be seen as reaching this threshold emphasizes the magnitude and importance of this global problem.

Q: Please explain the background that led to this decision.

A: Sepsis is incredibly common, a source of great mortality and morbidity, and yet potentially amenable to a number of corrective actions. None of these happen without raised awareness and attention. Furthermore, sepsis ravages all societies and all age groups. The agenda that ensues from this attention-raising has implications both of basic health care delivery systems, focusing on ‘doing simple things well,’ and for researchers in academia and industry, focusing on harnessing advances in biomedical science to improve diagnostics and implement better tailored precision therapies to support the immune system, combat highly resistant bacteria, advance the provision of effective, safe organ support for vital failing organs, etc.

Q: How is sepsis a different problem in third world countries, compared to the U.S.?

A: Sepsis disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, like the very young, the very old and the poor. Lower middle income countries have less infrastructure to deliver timely therapies, less monitoring capacity, less acute care delivery capacity, etc., and all of this is magnified in a setting with more poverty. In addition, sepsis is more common in settings of malnutrition, poor sanitation and where there are endemic infectious disease problems—for example, bacterial sepsis can be more severe in patients with a history malaria.

Q: How does recent research conducted by Pitt physician-scientists (Redefining sepsis, PRISM meta-analysis, Rory’s Regulations analysis, among others) support and fit into this recommendation?

A: It aligns perfectly. Our epidemiologic and health services research focuses on ‘doing the simple things well’ in both rich and austere settings; our translational research on better patient phenotyping and more sophisticated manipulation of the body’s immune system, as well as better monitoring and care of vital organ dysfunction, is relevant too, because even when ‘current’ care is delivered optimally, as many as 1 in 4 patients still die. Thus, we need to not only ensure everyone gets the best version of today’s care, but we also need to keep an eye on how to deliver better care tomorrow.

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