Liver Diseases

The Pittsburgh Liver Research Center (PLRC) is a multidisciplinary center under the leadership of S. Paul, Monga, MD, and is the research core for the Division’s hepatology investigations. The PLRC leads novel translational and basic science research in hepatic pathobiology to enable and promote improved clinical outcomes through multidisciplinary research. Key research areas include chronic liver injury, liver tumorigenesis, and regenerative medicine. The PLRC is committed to intellectual exchange among Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition clinicians and researchers to provide a platform to enhance, enrich, and synergize scientific interactions and collaborations among multidisciplinary researchers committed to liver disease science. In 2020, the PLRC became one of only 20 research centers nationwide to receive the Digestive Diseases Research Core Center (DDRCC) designation from the NIDDK.

On the clinical research side, the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases (CLD) participates in some of the largest clinical trials in the country due, in part, to the national reputation of our liver specialists and UPMC’s vast network. The Center’s primary research themes and major ongoing trials include:

    • Therapies for hepatitis C and B in transplant and non-transplant patients
    • Novel approaches to the evaluation, management and follow up of patients with fatty liver disease
    • Treatment of Alpha-One Antitrypsin Deficiency
    • Relationship between physical deconditioning and hospitalization for patients listed for liver transplantation: Assessing activity levels by use of a wearable activity monitor for patients with chronic liver disease listed on the transplant wait list
    • Phase 2 randomized study evaluating safety and tolerability of investigational study medications for patients with NASH for patients with stage F2 or F3 fibrosis
    • Phase 2, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-finding, clinical trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of an investigational study medication in subjects with primary sclerosing cholangitis
    • Treatment of HCV Genotypes 1-6, compensated cirrhotics for both naïve, current, and past treatment failures with multiple sponsors
    • Treatment of non-cirrhotic NASH patients – randomized placebo-controlled trial
    • Thrombocytopenia treatment for PLT <50,000 prior to planned invasive procedure


Dr. Arteel's Research

Dr. Arteel’s research focuses on the interaction between hepatotoxicants (e.g., arsenic) and lifestyle choices (e.g., obesity and alcohol) in the initiation and progression of chronic liver diseases. His current research foci are based on the understanding that transitional changes to the ECM proteome (i.e., “matrisome”) play an underappreciated role in the initiation and progression of liver disease. He is developing computational tools to attempt to predict mechanism(s) and to develop biomarkers (or surrogate biomarkers) for use in the clinics.


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Dr. Behari's Research

Dr. Behari’s investigates the role of intracellular signaling pathways in the pathogenesis of liver diseases. He is also interested in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic fatty liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Dr. Beier's Research
Dr. Beier’s research focus is on environmental vinyl chloride exposure in the context of existing underlying liver disease. Clearly high occupational exposure to vinyl chloride is directly hepatotoxic; what is less well clear is the impact of lower environmental exposure on exacerbating existing liver disease. Given the fact that a significant portion of the population has risk factors for liver disease (most commonly, obesity), and that 30% of the US population has elevated indices of liver damage, any potential impact of low environmental exposure could be dramatic. Our findings indicate that vinyl chloride will exacerbate liver damage caused by another factor. This work shifts the paradigm of current risk assessment for not only this compound, but for any other environmental agent that may potentially damage the liver.



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Dr. Chopra's Research
Dr. Chopra’s research interests focus on the cholestatic liver diseases primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis. He has been involved in collaborative research projects with the Starzl Transplant Institute and the Liver Cancer Center, and has served as co-investigator on a number of multicenter trials investigating novel therapies and approaches to the management of viral hepatitis. His research work has culminated in 50 scientific presentations at national and international conferences.
Dr. Duarte-Rojo's Research
Dr. Duarte-Rojo conducts clinical and translational research in disorders of physical function and exercise in advanced liver disease. He is also interested in clinimetrics, with an emphasis on the use of noninvasive assessment of liver disease, and the development of methods to predict clinical outcomes.



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Dr. Jonassaint's Research
Dr. Jonassaint’s researches specific biologic markers involved in the development and progression of liver disease in both the pre- and post- transplant populations, with a focus on disparities in liver transplant outcomes. This research program also explores why some patients experience rapid fibrosis progression or accelerated graft loss post-transplant.
Dr. Malik's Research
Dr. Malik’s research focuses on outcomes in patients with end stage liver disease/cirrhosis and post-liver transplant.
Dr. Monga's Research
Dr. Monga ‘s current research projects are aimed at elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of liver pathophysiology. His lab is interested in understanding the process of liver regeneration. Using genetic knockout mice (inducible, conditional), his lab is in the process of determining the cell-molecule circuitry of the Wnt signaling during liver regeneration process. Similarly, the lab studies the regulation of the process of metabolic zonation where hepatocytes in different zones of the hepatic lobule are bestowed with different functional capacities owing to the differential gene expression. The pericentral gene expression is under the control of Wnt signaling, and the periportal gene signature has been suggested to be under the control of Yap signaling. This process of dynamic interactions between the two signaling pathways is also under investigation. Since hepatic repair after various injuries is dictated by the kind of injury and type of cell affected, several studies have shown the potential of hepatocytes and biliary epithelial cells to transdifferentiate into one another. We are examining the models and the molecular mechanisms that underlie these processes so as to exploit them for regulating repair process. A major sequela of multiple chronic liver diseases is in fact development of hepatic fibrosis. This involves in large part activation of hepatic stellate cells to form activated myofibroblasts, which are the source of collagen and scarring in the liver with the eventual development of cirrhosis. We are examining molecular signals that are relevant in stellate cell activation and biology, which can be targeted for development of anti-fibrotic therapies. Similarly, we are interested in role of macrophages in hepatic injury and repair process and their crosstalk with stellate cells. A common form of hepatic injury is cholestatic, where there is an impairment of bile flow in the liver causing retention of bile acids and injury to hepatic parenchyma as well as breach of blood bile barrier that results in bilirubin and bile acid leaking into systemic circulation. Using animal models, we are looking at novel ways to modulate bile acid metabolism to counteract cholestatic liver injury and repair. Similarly, we are investigating novel mechanisms that underlie the pathogenesis of various cholestatic liver diseases. We have identified the important role of adherens junctions, tight junctions, and desmosomes in maintenance of blood bile barrier through unique mechanisms and crosstalk. We have generated animal models to address such mechanisms and using innovative imaging methodologies like intravital microscopy, we have identified peculiar underpinnings of disorders such as PFIC. We hope to devise novel therapeutic interventions based on new findings. Lastly, we are interested in another relevant sequela of many chronic liver diseases. Liver tumors—especially hepatocellular cancer—develops mostly in the backdrop of chronic liver injury. We are interested in identifying patient-relevant molecular aberrations, and using a reductionist approach, we generate animal models to address biology and therapies. We use sleeping beauty transposon/transposase and hydrodynamic tail vein injections to deliver the plasmids into 1-5% of hepatocytes in a mouse to examine tumorigenesis. Using high throughput analysis of tumors (gene array), we are addressing gene expression changes, which are then correlated with existing human HCC databases, such as TCGA, to address the similarity of the animal model to the human disease. Such validation allows us to more confidently use this model as a representative of a subset of human HCC. Such approaches have also yielded novel information about other liver tumors like hepatoblastomas.
Dr. Myint's Research
Dr. Myint’s research interests are liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver transplantation.
Dr. Rabinovitz's Research
Dr. Rabinovitz studies the assessment and treatment of chronic viral hepatitis, focusing on combination therapy for chronic hepatitis C patients. Additional research efforts focus on developing new therapies for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD), biological agents for patients with low platelet count undergoing invasive procedures, and new therapies for patients with hepatic encephalopathy.
Dr. Rogal's Research
Dr. Rogal brings her extensive collaborative experience with Transplant Surgery and the VA Healthcare System to the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Dr. Rogal studies liver transplant outcomes with particular interests in addiction and pain with chronic liver disease patients. She is also interested in the implementation of science to combat health disparities.
Dr. Shaikh's Research
Dr. Shaikh researches the progression of end-stage liver disease, treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatocarcinogenesis and genomic profiling of liver tumors, and allocation models for liver transplantation.

Contact Us

Division of Gastroenterology,
Hepatology and Nutrition

Mezzanine Level, C-Wing, PUH
200 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
412-864-7091  |  Email

UPMC Digestive Disorders Center

1-866-4GASTRO (442-7876)

Center for Liver Diseases


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